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Seawater adaptation and growth of post-smolt Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) of wild and farmed strains

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Kjetil Aune

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Aquaculture ; Volume 220. p. 367–384. 2003

Handeland, S.O.; Björnsson, Björn Thrandur; Arnesen, Arne Mikal; Stefansson, Sigurd

Atlantic salmon smolts (Salmo salar L.) of wild (Namsen) and farmed (AquaGen) strains were transferred to full-strength seawater (33‰) for 0 (initial control group), 0.5, 1, 2, 4, 8, 14, 30, 42 and 60 days at three different temperatures (4.3, 9.4 and 14.3 °C). Freshwater temperature in each tank was adjusted to test conditions 10 days prior to transfer. Physiological adaptation was monitored as changes in plasma growth hormone levels, gill Na+,K+-ATPase activity, plasma chloride levels and survival in seawater. Overall, smolts from the wild strain were better able to tolerate transfer to seawater than smolts from the hatchery strain. A delay in the osmotic disturbance and a prolonged period of osmotic stress were observed at the low temperature. Circulating GH levels increased transiently in all groups during the first 12–48 h in seawater and long-term GH levels were positively correlated with seawater temperature. Growth rates were influenced by temperature and strain, with the farmed smolts showing a higher growth than the wild smolts. Food Conversion Efficiency (FCE) was higher in smolts from the farmed strain, whereas no differences in daily food consumption were observed. Optimum temperature for FCE was calculated to be 10.5 °C, whereas the optimal temperature for growth in seawater was calculated to be 13.0 °C. We suggest that the observed differences in seawater tolerance, growth and food conversion probably are genetic and may reflect the fact that the hatchery fish have been bred for rapid growth for several generations.

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