UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Investigation of physiological and behavioral alarm responses in larval white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) Eom, Junho


White sturgeon populations in North America have dramatically decreased because of the commercial demand for caviar in the past and anthropogenic activities in the present. To conserve white sturgeon, recovery planning is required to ensure that the fish are self-sustaining through natural reproduction. However, little is known about many important aspects of white sturgeon biology, including their ability to detect and respond to alarm cues, the goal of this thesis. My results show that larval white sturgeon possess epidermal club cells, which in other fish are known to contain alarm cues. I investigated the effect of exposure to whole body extracts (WBE) of conspecifics (which contain the epidermal cells) on olfaction, through the use of electro-olfactogram (EOG), and investigated the effect of WBE exposure on behavioural responses and whole body cortisol levels in ~20 day post hatch white sturgeon larvae. The fish larvae showed alarm behaviors, such as avoidance, dashing, and freezing when exposed to WBE. In WBE treatment, the fish also increased whole body cortisol levels that are known as an indicator of stress. This thesis not only provides information on fundamental aspects of white sturgeon biology, but also may help fisheries management to understand how alarm substances are perceived in hatchery-reared naïve white sturgeon larvae.

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