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Title: Optimisation of common snook Centropomus undecimalis broodstock management
Authors: Rhody, Nicole
Supervisor(s): Migaud, Herve
Keywords: Common snook
Parental analysis
Induced spawning
Larval development
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: University of Stirling
Citation: Rhody, N.R., Puchulutegui, C., Taggart, J.B., Main, K.L., Migaud, H., 2014. Parental contribution and spawning performance in captive common snook Centropomus undecimalis broodstock. Aquaculture 432, 144-153.
Rhody, N.R., Neidig, C.L., Grier, H.J., Main, K.L., Migaud, H., 2013. Assessing Reproductive Condition in Captive and Wild Common Snook Stocks: A Comparison between the Wet Mount Technique and Histological Preparations. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 142, 979-988.
Yanes-Roca, C., Rhody, N.R., Nystrom, M., Wittenrich, M.L., Main, K.L., 2012. Embryonic and early larval development in hatchery-reared common snook. North American Journal of Aquaculture 74, 499-511.
Abstract: Advances in aquaculture technologies are being investigated to support the replenishment of local fisheries, develop marine food fish farming opportunities and to increase seafood production globally. In order to promote the expansion and development of aquaculture technologies required to raise new finfish species, a number of key bottlenecks restricting commercial-scale culture need to be addressed, including the ability to control fish reproduction in captivity and to produce high quality seeds. One candidate species for large-scale production, and the focus of this work, is common snook. Prized as a food fish in Mexico, Central and South America and as a popular game fish along the Gulf coast of the United States; common snook are economically important having both a high market value and recreational demand. Despite recent advances in captive spawning, a number of reproductive bottlenecks still need to be addressed such as lack of spontaneous spawning in captivity, poor fertilization rates and inconsistent production of high quality eggs and larvae. Therefore, the overall aim of this thesis was to better understand the reproductive biology of common snook in order to develop protocols to improve the reliability of captive spawning in closed recirculating aquaculture systems and the quality of eggs produced as a basis for commercial scale cultivation. First, this PhD project described oocyte development in common snook and validated a non-invasive method for assessing reproductive condition in wild and captive stocks (Chapter 2). This was done by using a tiered and adaptable staging scheme to compare the wet mount technique with histological preparations of ovarian biopsies. When compared with histology, the wet mount provided an immediate and precise method for determining whether female broodstock were candidates for hormonal induction. In fishery biology, an understanding of fish reproductive success and population reproductive potential is critical for designing and implementing effective fisheries management strategies. The wet mount technique provides a tool for non-lethal, low-cost determination of reproductive status in wild fish stocks. The next research chapter focused on spawning induction of captive snook populations. The first trial compared the effects of slow and regular release GnRHa implants whereas the second trial investigated the effects of GnRHa, alone or in combination with the dopamine antagonist, pimozide (PIM), on milt characteristics and plasma steroid levels in captive male common snook broodstock (Chapter 3). In an effort to better enable reliable control of reproduction under captive conditions, the annual plasma sex steroid profile of captive male and female broodstock maintained under natural photo-thermal conditions was also examined. When possible, milt samples were collected pre and post implantation; sperm density, sperm motility and spermatocrit were documented among individual males. The assigned treatments appeared to have no or little effects on milt production in male broodstock although plasma steroid levels were found to be significantly elevated in individuals treated with GnRHa in combination with the dopamine antagonist, pimozide. At the time this work was performed, no data on spawning dynamics, including individual spawning performance, had been reported for common snook in captivity. Mass spawning tanks are complex systems where fish are left to spawn naturally and fertilized eggs are collected with little or no control over the mating of the animals. Therefore, the third part of this thesis explored the potential of DNA profiling for monitoring mating outcomes in captive broodstock by employing eight microsatellite markers to detect and quantify individual parental contributions for 2,154 larvae obtained from the three broodstock tanks (Chapter 4). The panel of loci was generally robust and allowed unambiguous assignment of 89% of larvae to a single family. Overall, spawn contribution data 1) provided a confirmation of GnRHa treatment efficacy in female snook with a minimum stage of oogenesis (late secondary growth-SGl) required for successful spawning, 2) identified a potential impact of handling on maturation and spawning of captive broodstock and 3) confirmed that, through photothermal conditioning, captive broodstock can spawn over consecutive days and several times per year including outside of their natural spawning season. The exogenous cues that tropical species use to synchronize key life events like reproduction remain largely unstudied, therefore, my PhD project also investigated the influence of tidal cycle on reproductive activity in common snook (Chapter 5). Real-time quantitative RT-PCR assays were developed and validated to measure the temporal expression patterns of gonadotropin genes (fshβ and lhβ) during the reproductive cycle in males and females. These were evaluated in relation to sex steroid production, LH blood plasma levels, gonadal development and tidal cycle. The phylogenetic analysis of the deduced amino acid sequence of common snook for fshβ and lhβ revealed strong identity with other teleosts (75-90%). Additionally, the mRNA profiles of fshβ and lhβ in the pituitary of females displayed a clear pattern of expression concomitant with histological changes in oocyte development. Histological observations of gonads suggested a circa-tidal rhythm of follicular development. The findings, as a whole, provided new information supporting the role of tidal cycle on the entrainment of gametogenesis allowing for a better understanding of the environmental control of reproduction in common snook. Although the primary research emphasis in this PhD was on broodstock spawning and gamete quality, the final chapter focuses on larval ontogeny. The goal of this research was to gain improve understanding of the early life history characteristics of common snook in order to improve larval culture technologies. To do so, a combination of digital photography and histological techniques were used to document the embryonic and early larval development (0 to 14 days post hatch-DPH) of hatchery-reared individuals (Chapter 6). Larvae hatched 15 h after fertilization at 28°C, lacked pigmentation, had a rudimentary digestive tract and undeveloped visual system. Development was rapid and by 3 DPH larvae had almost doubled in length, the yolk sac was nearly exhausted, the mouth was open and eyes were pigmented with a well-structured retinal layer. The alimentary canal was differentiated into three distinct sections including the foregut, midgut and hindgut. Food was observed in the gut (rotifers) and structural epithelium organelles, such as the nucleus, mitochondria, and dark vesicles, were all present in high numbers. The swim bladder was formed and inflated. In summary, understanding early ontogenetic development in common snook can help provide information needed to address key bottlenecks seen in captive cultivation, such as the high incidence of larval mortality observed during the transition from endogenous to exogenous feeding. Overall, this doctoral work 1) validated molecular and endocrine analytical tools for future studies of common snook reproductive physiology, 2) provided a better understanding of both broodfish requirements in tank systems as well as the endocrine control of reproduction and spawning at the level of the brain-pituitary-gonadal axis, 3) increased our knowledge in genetic management of captive broodstock, in terms of parentage assignment and 4) offered new insight into wild population reproductive strategy as well as how reproduction is entrained through environmental cues and the pathways leading to oocyte recruitment and maturation. The new information presented here can be used to conserve wild snook stocks through production of farm raised individuals as a sustainable source of seafood and for fisheries enhancement.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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