Environmental Influence on the Physiological Consequences of Feeding in Rainbow Trout, ONCORHYNCHUS MYKISS Thesis uri icon

  • Overview


  • Ionic and osmotic homeostasis, and the intricately linked mechanisms of acid-base balance are critical for the survival of fish. To date, the role of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract in these processes has received only limited study, and our knowledge has been gained almost exclusively through studies conducted in fasting animals. The impacts of feeding and digestion, ubiquitous processes in the natural environment, are likely to be significant but have been overlooked. The current thesis addressed these shortfalls in our current understanding. Research focused on the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), a euryhaline species capable of withstanding the opposing challenges of life in seawater (diffusive influx of ions and loss of water) and freshwater (diffusive loss of ions and gain of water), and concentrated on its physiological response to ingestion of a meal of commercial, dry trout food, containing concentrated salts and little water. The net absorption and secretion of ions and water was tracked in each section of the GI tract of the rainbow trout over a detailed time course using an experimental diet that contained a simple inert marker, in the presence of external freshwater or seawater. Additionally, changes in overall blood chemistry were investigated to examine changes in osmotic, ionic and acid-base regulation during digestion. Feeding in freshwater resulted in the loss of endogenous water to the GI tract during digestion. Additionally, the meal provided much needed ions to balance those lost by diffusion; indeed all of the ingested ions were assimilated along the GI tract except for sodium which was absorbed in the stomach, but secreted in the intestine such that overall sodium balance was close to zero. Feeding also created a metabolic base load (an increase in the concentration of base, or HC03- due HCl secretion into the stomach lumen) that alkalinized the blood (i.e. caused a rise in pH), a phenomenon known as an alkaline tide. The base load was subsequently removed from the blood through increasedexcretion of base to the water via the gills. In seawater, the commercial diet again provided an avenue for water loss. This was potentially deleterious to an organism already suffering from diffusive water loss to the environment. Ion absorption from the diet was negligible, except for potassium and calcium, which were readily assimilated. As in freshwater, digestion resulted in an alkaline tide, however the mechanism of acid-base homeostasis differed with the excess base likely being excreted into the intestine. In contrast to freshwater fish, the gills took up additional base from the external environment, prolonging the acid-base disturbance in seawater fish. Overall, feeding was a dynamic process with far reaching systemic physiological effects. The research described highlighted intimate interactions between the processes of feeding and digestion and ion, water and acid-base homeostasis, and elucidated mechanisms that enable fish to inhabit a wide range of environments.

publication date

  • June 2008