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Early enrichment effects on brain development in hatchery-reared Atlantic salmon ( Salmo salar ): no evidence for a critical period

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In hatcheries, fish are normally reared in barren environments, which have been reported to affect their phenotypic development compared with wild conspecifics. In this study, Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) alevins were reared in conventional barren hatchery trays or in either of two types of structurally enriched trays. We show that increased structural complexity during early rearing increased brain size in all investigated brain substructures. However, these effects disappeared over time after transfer to barren tanks for external feeding. Parallel to the hatchery study, a group of salmon parr was released into nature and recaptured at smoltification. These stream-reared smolts developed smaller brains than the hatchery reared smolts, irrespective of initial enrichment treatment. These novel findings do not support the hypothesis that there is a critical early period determining the brain growth trajectory. In contrast, our results indicate that brain growth is plastic in relation to environment. In addition, we show allometric growth in brain substructures over juvenile development, which suggests that comparisons between groups of different body size should be made with caution. These results can aid the development of ecologically sound rearing methods for conservational fish-stocking programs.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University of Gothenburg, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Box 463, SE-405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden. 2: Technical University of Denmark (DTU), National Institute of Aquatic Resources, Vejlsøvej 39, DK-8600 Silkeborg, Denmark. 3: Danish Centre for Wild Salmon, Brusgårdsvej 15, DK-8960 Randers SØ, Denmark.

Publication date: 2012-09-14

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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