Small fish larvae grow allometrically, but how this growth pattern may be affected by different growth rates and early diet quality is little known. The present study investigates how different growth rates, caused by start-feeding with copepods or rotifers the first 30 days post hatch (dph), affect allometric growth and development of nine major organs in ballan wrasse (Labrus bergylta) larvae up to experimental end at 60 dph. Feeding with cultivated copepod nauplii led to both increased larval somatic growth and faster development and growth of organ systems than when feeding rotifers. Of the organs studied, the digestive and respiratory organs increased the most in size between 4 and 8 dph, having a daily specific growth rate (SGR) between 30 and 40% in larvae fed copepods compared to 20% or less for rotifer-fed larvae. Muscle growth was prioritised from flexion stage and onwards, with a daily SGR close to 30% between 21 and 33 dph regardless of treatment. All larvae demonstrated a positive linear correlation between larval SL and increase in total tissue volume, and no difference in allometric growth pattern was found between the larval treatments. A change from positive allometric to isometric growth was observed at a SL close to 6.0 mm, a sign associated with the start of metamorphosis. This was also where the larvae reached postflexion stage, and was accompanied by a change in growth pattern for most of the major organ systems. The first sign of a developing hepatopancreas was however first observed in the largest larva (17.4 mm SL, 55 dph), indicating that the metamorphosis in ballan wrasse is a gradual process lasting from 6.0 to at least 15–17 mm SL.
- Received February 3, 2016.
- Accepted July 11, 2016.
- © 2016. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd
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