Ontogenesis from embryo to juvenile and salinity tolerance of Japanese devil stinger Inimicus japonicus during early life stage
© 2013 Wang et al.; licensee Springer. 2013
Received: 1 April 2013
Accepted: 26 June 2013
Published: 1 July 2013
Embryonic development and morphological characteristics of Japanese devil stinger Inimicus japonicus during early life stage were investigated. Larvae were hatched out 50 h after fertilization at temperature 21°C. Total length of the newly hatched larva was 4.03 mm, the mouth of the larva opened at 3 days after hatching (DAH), and the yolk sac of the larva disappeared at 5 DAH. After hatching, the pectoral fin first developed, then the tail fin, dorsal fin, anal fin and pelvic fin continuously developed, and all fins formed completely at 15 DAH. The metamorphosis was complete at 25 DAH, and the body color and habit of the metamorphosed individuals were different from the larvae. At 30 DAH, the morphology and habit of the juveniles were the same to adults. In order to determine the suitable salinity for larviculture of I. japonicus, salinity tolerance at different early developmental stages was compared in terms of the survival activity index (SAI) and mean survival time (MST). The results indicated that salinity tolerance varied with development stages. The optimum salinity range for newly hatched larvae was 10–25‰. Larvae showed low tolerance to low salinity (5‰) before the mouth opened, and the suitable salinities for the larvae with open mouth, yolk-sac larvae, post yolk-sac larvae were 10–15‰. The flexion larvae showed a wider salinity tolerance with range of 5–20‰. After metamorphosis, the juveniles showed a preferable adaptability of salinities of 15–20‰. The SAI and MST of individuals at various stages under different salinity conditions were positively correlated.
The devil stinger Inimicus japonicus, a valuable demersal marine scorpaenid fish, is widely distributed along the coastal areas of eastern Asia with depth range 10-200m, where salinity fluctuates frequently due to rainfall in summer. During its reproductive season, the larvae may suffer environmental changes severely such as salinity fluctuation, but little is known about their salinity tolerance during their early stage. The devil stinger is one of the species for which artificial seed production and cultivation have been developed along the coastal areas of China and Japan to increase the harvest yield since the early 2000s, and it has been considered to be a new commercially important species to be introduced into the aquaculture industry (Takushima et al. 2003; Liu and Quan 2005; Kadomura et al. 2006; Chen et al. 2009; Kim et al. 2012). However, the wild population of the devil stinger has declined rapidly because of overfishing and habitat destruction, it is urgent to conduct relevant studies on resource conservation and artificial breeding. In China and Japan, some hatcheries have tried to establish seed production, but success has not yet been attained because of sudden mass mortality during the larviculture in recent years (Kim et al. 2012). Rearing conditions, egg quality, and diseases are suspected as causes for this (Kadomura et al. 2006). Information regarding its early life history and larviculture, which can provide useful information for developing conservation and management plans, has not been well reported. There is an urgent need for researchers to learn about the larval biology of this species, and to provide some useful information to culture this species.
There are some studies on reproductive biology and osteological development of I. japonicus (Imamura and Yabe 1997; Takushima et al. 2003; Nozaki et al.2003). The reproductive cycle of devil stinger has been investigated, and its spawning season is from May to August, with peaks from May to June (Nozaki et al. 2003). Although attempts have been made to establish seed production and entire aquaculture process for this species (Takushima et al. 2003; Liu and Quan 2005), the technique has not been fully developed, and studies on larval ecology are still lacking, especially the salinity tolerance during early life stage has not been elucidated. Sudden mass mortality during the larval rearing stage due to unknown causes is a serious problem. Inappropriate rearing or feeding conditions, defects in egg quality, and infectious diseases are suspected as causes of sudden mass mortality (Kim et al. 2012). It is therefore necessary to accumulate fundamental information on the larval biology of this species in order to establish the technique for artificial seed production.
Study on early life history characters of fish makes a fundamental key for enabling a closer approach to their biology and taxonomy (Meijide and Guerrero 2000; Celik et al. 2012). Morphological characteristics are very important as they provide information of life history of fish and critical reference to hatchery production (Martinez and Bolker 2003). In addition, studies on embryonic and larval development of any fish species can be useful in directing the husbandry efforts of fish breeder to the specific state and requirements of each development stage (Celik et al. 2012). Chen et al. (2009) investigated the feeding rhythm and lethal time during starvation of the devil stinger I. japonicus. However, detailed study about the embryonic and larval development of scorpionfish is scarce. In addition, information is lacking concerning ontogeny of Japanese devil stinger I. japonicus from egg to juvenile.
Salinity plays an important role in embryonic development, yolk sac absorption, larval and juvenile growth Boeuf and Payan (2001). Embryonic and larval stages are two sensitive periods during fish life history, changes in environmental conditions may cause negative effects on larval development, and inappropriate culture condition may result in mass mortality of larval fish. Thus it is useful to study the salinity tolerance of fish during early life stages and choose the suitable salinity for larviculture (Boeuf and Payan 2001). Some reports of the effects of salinity on growth and survival of larval fish, such as Caranx mate (Santerre 1976), brown-spotted grouper Epinephelus tauvina (Akatsu et al. 1983), gilthead sea bream Sparus aurata (Tandler et al. 1995) and Brazilian flounder Paralichthys orbignyanus (Sampaio et al. 2007) larvae, indicated an increase in survival and/or growth at intermediate salinities (>15 ppt but <30 ppt). Others found improved growth or survival of larvae at higher salinities (>34 ppt), such as milkfish Chanos chanos (Swanson 1996) and southern flounder Paralichthys lethostigma (Henne and Watanabe 2003; Moustakas et al. 2004). Moreover, no significant differences in growth were observed among different salinities in cobia Rachycentron canadum larvae (Faulk and Holt 2006). Thus, results vary among species and across developmental stages. The devil stinger I. japonicus is known to exhibit surface death from hatching to the first feeding stage during the process of larval production (Ruttanapornvareesakul et al. 2007), whether salinity can affect the survival in this period is still unclear. In the present study, the embryonic and larval development of laboratory-reared I. japonicus from egg to juvenile were described in detail, major morphological changes during larval development were investigated. In addition, salinity tolerance of devil stinger during early life stage was investigated. Survival activity index (SAI) and mean survival time (MST) of larvae, which are expressed as functions of tolerance to starvation of larvae (Furuita et al. 2000; Matsuo et al. 2006), have been used as effective indexes for assessment of salinity tolerance in larval I. japonicus.
Materials and methods
Thirty males (body weight 600g ) and thirty females (body weight 300g ) of I. japonicus were purchased from Ningde Fish market (Ningde, Fujian province), and were used as broodstock in the experiment. They were fed with commercial seawater fish feeds (Guangdong Yuehai Feed Group, Guangdong, China; Protein: 39%, Fat: 5%, Fibre: 3%, Ash: 15%, Moisture: 10%), three times a day. During broodstock culture, water temperature, pH, salinity and DO were monitored daily at 21 ± 0.5 °C, 8.0–8.1, 28–30‰ and 7.0–8.0 mg l-1 respectively. The photoperiod was maintained at 12L/12D by fluorescent lighting (lights on: 07:00–19:00 hours). Broodstocks were kept in two 500-l tanks. Female spawning was induced by intraperitoneally injecting luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone analogue (LRHA3) and human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG). The doses of these two hormones for female were 5 μg/kg and 800 IU/kg, and males were injected with half doses of them. Spawning was observed 50 h after injection.
Observations and measurements of embryos and larvae
Fertilized eggs were collected and incubated in 500-l tanks filled with clean seawater (30‰). The incubation tank was held at temperature 21.0°C and dissolved oxygen 7.0–8.0 mg l-1. Some of them were transferred into a beaker (500 ml) for embryonic development observations. Eggs were observed from spawning to hatching under an electron microscope (OPTON EM10C, Carl Zelss Company, Germany, No.5166, voltage is 60KV) and photographed using a colour video camera (Panasonic ZS10, Japan). Embryonic development stages were identified according to Jones et al. (1978) and Kimmel et al. (1995).
Salinity tolerance test at different developmental stages
where N is the total number of supplied larvae, hi is the cumulative mortality by the day i, and k is the number of days elapsed until all larvae died due to starvation. The average SAI was calculated for each batch and was used for further analysis.
Data on salinity tolerance at six stages were statistically analysed using one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), differences were considered significant at P < 0.05, and Student-Newman-Keuls post hoc multiple range tests were carried out to determine which treatments were different. Prior to the analysis, normality of the data was evaluated by using the Shapiro-Wilk’s W test and homogeneity of variances was checked by Levene’s test using the statistical software SPSS 17.0. The results are expressed as the means ± S.D. of the data.
Embryonic development stages of Inimicus japonicus at 21°C
First cleavage, blastodisc divided via meridional cleavage to form two equal cells
Second cleavage, dividing the blastodisc into 4 blastomeres
Third cleavage, 2 x 4 array of blastomeres
Fourth cleavage, 16 blastomeres can be seen
Fifth cleavage, 2 regular tiers (horizontal rows) of blastomeres, sometimes in 4 x 8 array
Sixth cleavage, 64 blastomeres were ranked irregularly
The blastomeres were still distinct but the number of blastomeres can not be counted
Early blastula stage
The blastomeres were no longer distinguishable, the blastocoel began to form, and endoderm germ layer appeared
Late blastula stage
Epibolic cells increased, the archenteron can be seen, endoderm germ layer invaginated and the ectoderm layer formed
Early gastrula stage
Blastoderm cells begin to spread over the yolk, and blastoderm remains uniform in thickness
Mid gastrula stage
Germ ring epiboled 1/2 of yolk sac, embryonic shield visible from animal pole
Late gastrula stage
75% coverage of the yolk cell by the blastoderm, dorsal side distinctly thicker; epiblast, hypoblast, evacuation zone visible
embryoid body formation
The prototype of the neural plate appeared, head part uplifted, yolk plug exposed, pigments on the embryonic shield and yolk sac can be seen
Formation of optic vesicle
On both sides of the head, a pair of kidney-shaped protrusions can be seen
Appearance of myomere
Embryoid surrounded the yolk sac, in the center of the embryoid, 8–11 myomeres can be seen.
Embryo begins to spin frequently, heart beat 70-75/min
The embryo shows conspicuous muscular contractions
newly hatched larva
General transparent, floating on the water surface
Larval development and morphological observations
Salinity tolerance of larvae at different developmental stages
Summary of one-way ANOVA results on the effect of salinity on Survival activity index (SAI) and Mean Survival Time (MST) of Inimicus japonicus at early stage
Newly hatched larva
Post yolk-sac larva
Newly hatched larva
Post yolk-sac larva
Scorpaeniformes fish has two reproductive types, one is ovoviviparous, such as false kelpfish Sebastiscus marmoratus; and the other is fertilized externally, like I. japonicus. There are three types of teleost eggs, buoyant, sticky and demersal, and most marine teleostean spawn buoyant eggs. Usually one oil globule is contained in the egg, playing a role of floating. However, oil globule could not be found in I. japonicus, but the eggs were still floating in the seawater with a salinity of 30‰, indicating ups and downs of eggs of I. japonicus is related to the water content in the eggs. In this study, the full developmental sequence of the devil stinger I. japonicus from egg to juvenile in controlled aquarium conditions was stated. These results enabled us to compare the development and morphology of embryos of I. japonicus with those of other teleost fishes in detail. During the embryonic development of I. japonicus, the same events were observed as those seen in zebrafish Danio rerio (Kimmel et al. 1995), roughskin sculpin Trachidermus fasciatus (Takeshita et al. 1997; Wang et al. 2004), and cottid fish Hemilepidotus gilberti (Hayakawaa and Munehara 2001), and their stage definitions could be consistently adopted to describe the embryonic development of I. japonicus. Therefore, the embryonic development of I. japonicus can be considered to follow the general developmental pattern of teleosts. Egg size is an important consideration for egg and larval quality during incubation and rearing in aquaculture. The average diameter of most Scorpaeniformes fish eggs are around 1.2–2.0 mm, however, the size range is wide. Egg diameters of some Scorpaeniformes fish were reported as: 1.2–1.3 mm for I. japonicus (Kadomura et al. 2006; Kim et al. 2012), 1.3 mm for non-copulatory sculpin Hemilepidotus gilberti (Hayakawaa and Munehara 2001), 1.5–1.78 (1.98–2.21) mm for roughskin sculpin, Trachidermus fasciatus (Wang et al. 2004; Takeshita et al. 1997). The egg of devil stinger is spherical, floating and has approximately 1.40 mm average diameter, which is similar to its previous reports. The egg size and fecundity are determined by several factors, i.e., broodstock age, broodstock size, feed and water quality (Celik et al. 2012).
In most fish species the blastomeres are regular in size and shape (Hall 2008). In the devil stinger, first five cleavages divided the blastodisc into 32 equal-sized blastomeres at the animal pore and horizontal cleavage occurred between 64 and 128 cell stages (after the fifth division). In zebrafish Danio rerio (Kimmel et al. 1995), Atlantic cod Gadus morhua (Hall et al. 2004), and cichlid fish Cichlasoma dimerusn (Meijide and Guerrero 2000), the first horizontal cleavage occurs at the sixth cleavage, between the 32 and the 64 cell stages. It occurs between the 16 and 32 cell stages in the medaka Oryzias latipes (Iwamatsu 1994) and common snook Centropomus undecimalis (Yanes-Roca et al. 2012). It occurs even earlier in the Holostean fish Amia calva (between the 8 and the 16 cell stages) (Ballard 1986; Nakatsuji et al. 1997) and in the ice goby Leucopsarion petersii (between the 4 and the 8 cell stages) (Nakatsuji et al. 1997). Theoretical knowledge of embryonic development stages might be useful for incubation management with regard to environmental variables, thus larvae malformation and low productivity in captivity can be prevented (Celik et al. 2012). Furthermore, the information on embryonic and early larval development is important for large-scale seed production and aquaculture (Koumoundouros et al. 2001; Saillant et al. 2001). Teleost gastrulation was morphologically characterized by the presence of a germ ring (Arezo et al. 2005). In this study, gastrulation was observed at 11:36 hours and 50% epiboly began 13:45 h. I. japonicus embryo reached the eight-somite stage at 25:46 hours and reached the pre-hatching stage at 42 h with muscular contractions.
The development of teleost fins during incubation process is various among different species. For example, the fins of Salmonidae fish begin to develop before hatching, but the fins of other fish, such as Nibea albiflora, Paralichthys olivaceus, Scomberomorus niphonius and Engraulis japonicus, start to develop after hatching, and the pectoral fin rays form late (Kendall et al. 1984). In I. japonicus, pectoral fin buds developed early at the late embryonic stage, showing a fan-shape film with black spot after hatching. The pectoral fin was larger than the head 3 days after hatching, and three melanin spots spread on the edge of the fin films. The larvae were inactive but short periods of swimming were observed. They started swimming freely within 3–4 days. While many marine fish larvae had two kinds of energy reserves, yolk and oil globule (Bjelland and Berit 2006), devil stinger has only yolk sac. The yolk sac is depleted within 3–4 days and the larvae start to feed exogenously before complete absorption of the yolk sac. Mouth opening was on the third day. Primordium of tail fin appeared at 6 DAH, at the moment the pectoral fin had developed very large, and ten nicks formed on the edge of the fin rays, with fuscous melanin in each ray. After 20 days, bright gold yellow stripes appeared on the large fan-shape pectoral fin. In juveniles, the last two fin rays were separate from others. Possibly the development of pectoral fin in I. japonicus was corresponding with its functions. During larval stage, the fish were pelagic in the middle-upper waters, and fan-shape pectoral fin played a role in balance. When ten nicks showed up in the pectoral fin, they made the swimming of the larvae more accurate and flexible, guaranteeing their feeding successful. In the post-larvae, they changed the free-swimming to nestling on the bottom, because the large pectoral fin made their swimming slow. However, the powerful pectoral fins make the fish move quickly for a short distance intermittently, facilitating its successful feeding. In the juvenile stage, fish transferred to benthonic life style completely, and swam slowly on the bottom of the water supporting by the two separate pectoral fin rays. The development of pectoral fins in I. japonicus is useful for enhancing the active search and predation efficiency of food organisms, which is similar to the pectoral fins of yellow croaker Larimichthys crocea and river loach Triplophysa bleekeri (Li and Yan 2009; Wang et al. 2010).
Early larval development of I. japonicus was divided into four main periods: Yolk-sac larva: the presence of a yolk sac ventrally in the body, between hatching and 4 DAH. Yolk sac was absorbed and larvae swam actively 3–4 days after hatching, and the onset of exogenous feeding occurred 3 days later. Post yolk-sac larva: this period began at absorption of yolk sac and ended at the start of upward flexion of the notochord (between 4 and 12 DAH). Flexion larva: this period (the period during notochord flexion) was characterized with the hypural bones assuming a vertical position, between 13 and 15 DAH. Postflexion larva: the period between completion of flexion and the juvenile stage, 16–25 DAH. Our findings may provide a basis for further studying the complete early life history of I. japonicus and commercial production of this fish. The results of this study can contribute to a better understanding of the embryonic and larval development of other commercial scorpionfish larvae. They can be used to explain some aspects of the early life history at culture conditions and to develop better larval culture methodologies in hatchery. Similarly, they will be helpful to increase success rates in the larval culture of some scorpionfish fish species.
In the present study, based on salinity tolerance rest, salinity tolerance of I. japonicus was comparative wide, ranging from 10–30‰, the optimum salinity range was 10–20‰. Reducing the salinity appropriately did not negatively affect the development and growth of the larvae, but increased the survival of the larvae. This result was similar to the other fish species, such as Nibea miichthioides (Huang et al. 1997) and Pagrosomus major (Wang 2002). The SAI and MST are popular indexes for evaluating the vitality and quality of the larvae during the marine fish larviculture. In the present study, their values were higher at the salinities of 10–20‰, and were lower when salinity was below 10‰ or above 25‰. During the observation, larval development was normal under such salinity levels, indicating SAI and MST could be regarded as useful indicators for evaluating the optimum salinity range. Lin (2008) reported that suitable salinity range for I. japonicus larvae was 19–31‰, but he did not test the difference of salinity tolerance among different developmental stages, which was observed in the present study. The suitable salinity range for newly hatched larvae was 10–30‰. However, the suitable salinities for the yolk-sac larvae, mouth open larvae, and post yolk-sac larvae were almost the same, ranging from 10‰ to 20‰. The flexion larvae showed stronger low salinity tolerance compared with earlier stages, but this capacity decreased when the larvae finished metamorphosis. Except flexion larvae, all larvae were not able to survive at salinity 5‰, but lowering salinity appropriately could increase the survival of larvae in all developmental stages. Thus, in the present study, as a coastal fish species, the suitable salinity range for larviculture of I. japonicus was proved good at 10–20‰.
The SAI and MST displayed a similar trend under different salinities for all developmental stages. The SAI and MST are related to not only the nutrient storage, but also the living conditions. For example, when the salinity is suitable, the larvae only need to consume a little energy for osmoregulation, allocating large amount of energy to organ development and growth, thus survive longer under such conditions. However, when larvae are subject to lower or higher salinities, they need to spend more energy maintaining osmotic balance, and the other physiological functions are also affected, resulting in slow growth, reduced SAI and MST. In the present study, newly hatched larvae showed high SAI and MST at salinity 10–25‰, and larvae in other developmental stages showed higher values of the two parameters at salinity 10–20‰, indicating that the suitable salinity for the larviculture of I. japonicus should be reconsidered. Thus, the current salinity condition (30‰) in larviculture of Japanese devil stinger should be improved, and it is beneficial to reduce salinity moderately.
This work was supported in part by Science & Technology Committee of Shanghai (11PJ1404500), National Natural Science Foundation of China (31072228), Shanghai Education Commission grant (10ZZ102), the Doctoral Program of Higher Education of China (20113104110002) and Shanghai Universities First-class Disciplines Project of Fisheries.
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