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J Exp Zool. 2002 Oct 1;293(5):456-66.

Influence of cortisol on developmental rhythms during embryogenesis in a tropical damselfish.

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School of Marine Biology and Aquaculture, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia.


Newly-spawned teleost eggs can vary widely in their maternal endowment of a variety of hormones, including cortisol. Field and laboratory experiments have shown that initial egg cortisol concentrations directly influence the size at hatching of the benthic spawning damselfish, Pomacentrus amboinensis. The present study examines the mechanism by which cortisol influences larval size at hatching by investigating the growth and developmental rhythms throughout embryogenesis. Newly spawned eggs of P. amboinensis were collected from natural benthic nests, and half of each clutch was incubated in a moderate level of cortisol (2.7 x 10(-6) M, equivalent to a concentration of 0.79 pg/egg). Cortisol was found to have no affect on the rate of cell-pulsations up to epiboly (18 hr post-fertilization), with cells pulsing at a mean rate of 56-60 pulses/min. Cortisol had an affect on the relative growth rate from the start of gastrulation to knot formation. Growth in the cortisol-supplemented embryos was pulsed, with periods of fast growth punctuated by long periods of stasis. Overall growth rates during this period were lower in the cortisol-supplemented embryos despite their higher growth during active periods. Pulse rates of somite cells and contraction rhythms of myotomes and the heart were twice as high in cortisol-supplemented embryos than controls. Despite this, cortisol-supplemented eggs developed at the same rate as controls and hatched at the same time. This study suggests that the maternal endowment of cortisol to eggs plays a vital role in determining the embryonic rhythms by which embryos grow and may be directly influencing metabolism.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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