Yolk and oil globule utilization and developmental morphology of the digestive tract epithelium in larval rabbitfish, Siganus guttatus (Bloch)
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The purpose of this study was to find out how yolk and oil globule absorption in Siganus guttatus proceed as the digestive tract develops, in order to determine the probable causes of early larval mortality. Yolk and oil globule absorption in the rabbitfish were compared with the same processes in the more sturdy seaperch larvae during the first 10 days of larval life under identical rearing conditions in 32‰ sea water at 27°–30°C. The rapid decline of yolk in both species coincided with the rapid development of the digestive system within 24 h from hatching, indicating that most of the yolk was used for organogenesis. Whereas yolk was depleted in both fish in 3 days, the oil globule persisted in the rabbitfish only for 4 days and in the seaperch for 7 days. Oil globule depletion in the rabbitfish coincided with a negative mean length increment, implying an energy deficit even when the larvae had already started to feed. Ultrastructural observations of the gut epithelia of the rabbitfish revealed pinocytosis in the hindgut cells immediately after ingestion of rotifers, well in advance of complete yolk and oil globule absorption. Therefore, starvation due to exhaustion of the endogenous energy reserves in addition to the physical inability to feed were ruled out as major causes of larval mortality in rabbitfish.