Ontogeny of the Gastrointestinal Tract and Selected Digestive Enzymes in Cobia Rachycentron canadum (L.)

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Journal of Fish Biology





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The ontogeny of the digestive system of cobia Rachycentron canadum from hatching to 22 days post‐hatch (dph) (20·1 mm standard length) was examined with light microscopy. The activities of selected pancreatic enzymes were also determined during this period in order to optimize current rearing methods for this species. At hatching (3·6 mm), the digestive tract consisted of a relatively undifferentiated, straight tube positioned dorsally to the yolk sac. The major morphological changes in the digestive tract primarily occurred over the first 1–4 dph (3·6–4·4 mm). During this time, larvae began exogenous feeding (3 dph) and the digestive tract differentiated into five histologically distinct regions: buccopharynx, oesophagus, stomach anlage, anterior intestine and posterior intestine. Yolk reserves were exhausted by 5 dph (4·5 mm) and the oil globule began rapidly decreasing in size disappearing entirely by 9–10 dph (6·3–6·8 mm). Gastric glands differentiated at this time, and by 12 dph (8·1 mm) surface mucous cells of the stomach anlage stained positive for neutral mucosubstances. By 16 dph (11·6 mm), the blind sac (fundic region) of the stomach formed as did the pyloric caecae which initially appeared as a single protrusion of the anterior intestine just ventral to the pyloric sphincter. Generally, enzyme activities (U larva−1) for amylase (0·0–1·8), chymotrypsin (0·0–7902·4), trypsin (0·2–16·6) and lipase (9·3–1319·0) were measurable at or soon after hatching and increased steadily from c. 8–22 dph (5·7–20·1 mm). The results of this study are discussed in terms of current and future weaning practices of this species.