The effects of hypersalinity on the growth and skeletal anomalies of juvenile Cape stumpnose, Rhabdosargus holubi (Sparidae)
Keywords:fish physiology, growth anomalies, hypersalinity, skeletal development
Estuarine organisms are exposed to hypersaline conditions for prolonged periods during drought conditions and under severely restricted river flow resulting from freshwater abstraction and impoundments. Consequently, marine estuarine-dependent fish such as Rhabdosargus holubi may be subjected to extreme conditions, such as hypersalinity prevailing for long periods ( > 2 months). Hypersalinity may impact the energetic demands of fish due to osmoregulation leading to compromised growth. This study assessed the impact of high salinity on the growth and skeletal development of R. holubi juveniles. Skeletons of juveniles grown at different salinities in the wild and in aquaria were analysed for anomalies. The impact of hypersaline conditions on juvenile R. holubi growth was also determined in aquaria. Aquarium experiments indicated that hypersalinity of 50 did not significantly impact growth rates over two months. Overall, anomalies were rare and vertebral-related anomalies specifically did not differ significantly between salinities. However, fin rays were significantly impacted in fish growing at higher salinities in the wild. It was concluded that the strong osmoregulatory ability of R. holubi offers protection against hypersalinity affecting internal structures, but external structures may remain vulnerable. As such, from a locomotory standpoint, R. holubi may be vulnerable to long periods of exposure to hypersaline conditions.
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