Metamorphosis in summer flounder: Manipulation of rearing salinity to synchronize settling behavior, growth and development

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In the aquaculture of summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus), the inherent variation in growth and settling behavior during metamorphosis may lead to cannibalism and necessitate increased labor due to size grading. Our goal was to use an environmental salinity change as a cue to synchronize settling behavior and produce a larger, more uniformly sized cohort of juvenile summer flounder. Early metamorphic flounder were exposed to either a 5-day fluctuating (30-20-30-20-30 ppt; "Flux") or a single (30-20 ppt; "20 ppt") drop in rearing salinity. A control (continuous 30 ppt) was used for comparison. Average values for a peak settlement interval (PSI; defined as the interval beginning on the day by which the first 20% had settled until the day 80% had settled) were not affected by salinity manipulation, though the 20-ppt treatment did significantly increase percent settled per day by 54 dah. Average fish size was increased by the 20-ppt treatment (19.3±0.5 mm), but not the flux treatment (17.2±0.4 mm), compared to the control (17.6±0.5 mm). Developmental stage was significantly increased in the 20-ppt treatment (3.2±0.1) in comparison to the Flux (2.9±0.1), but not the control (3.1±0.1). However, the 20-ppt treatment reduced variance in development. To confirm the positive effects of the 20-ppt treatment, a second experiment was performed. A single salinity drop ("20 ppt"), a previously successful ([Gavlik, S., Albino, M., Specker, J.L., 2002. Metamorphosis in summer flounder: Manipulation of thyoid status to synchronize settling behavior, growth, and development. Aquaculture 203 (3-4), 359-373]thyroid hormone manipulation treatment ("TH") and a combination of the two ("TH+20 ppt") were compared to a control (continuous 30 ppt, no thyroid manipulation). The mean PSI was significantly reduced by both TH (7±1 days) and TH+20 ppt (8±0 days) treatments, compared to the control (11±1 days). The PSI for the 20-ppt treatment (9±0 days) was not significantly different than the control. The percent flounder settled per day was significantly increased by 20 ppt salinity and significantly modified (decreased, then increased) by TH manipulation. Flounder exposed to 20-ppt salinity were both larger (20 ppt: 18.6±0.3 mm; TH+20 ppt: 18.3±0.3 mm) and more developmentally advanced (20 ppt: 3.1±0.04; TH+20 ppt: 3.2±0.03) than flounder in 30 ppt (TH: 17.8±0.3 mm/3.1±0.3; Control: 17.9±0.3 mm/3.0±0.05). Finally, 20-ppt treatment reduced variance in development, while TH treatment reduced variance in both growth and development. Percent survival was unaffected by treatment in both experiments. In summary, a decrease in rearing salinity, from 30 to 20 ppt, increased growth, settling behavior and development of metamorphosing summer flounder. A decrease in rearing salinity, in combination with a TH manipulation, should result in larger, more uniformly sized flounder cohorts. We expect this synchronization will reduce the cannibalism and labor costs associated with size grading of cultured, metamorphosing summer flounder. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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