Despite a long history of rearing Atlantic salmon in hatcheries in Norway, knowledge of molecular and physiological aspects of juvenile development is still limited. To facilitate introduction of alternative feed ingredients and feed additives during early phases, increased knowledge regarding the ontogeny of the digestive apparatus in salmon is needed. In this study, we characterized the development of the gastrointestinal tract and accessory digestive organs for five months following hatch by using histological, biochemical and molecular methods. Furthermore, the effects of a diet containing 16.7% soybean meal (SBM) introduced at start-feeding were investigated, as compared to a fishmeal based control diet. Salmon yolk sac alevins and fry were sampled at 18 time points from hatch until 144 days post hatch (dph). Histomorphological development was investigated at 7, 27, 46, 54 and 144 dph. Ontogenetic expression patterns of genes encoding key digestive enzymes, nutrient transporters, gastrointestinal peptide hormones and T-cell markers were analyzed from 13 time points by qPCR. At 7 dph, the digestive system of Atlantic salmon alevins was morphologically distinct with an early stomach, liver, pancreas, anterior and posterior intestine. About one week before the yolk sac was internalized and exogenous feeding was started, gastric glands and developing pyloric caeca were observed, which coincided with an increase in gene expression of gastric and pancreatic enzymes and nutrient transporters. Thus, the observed organs seemed ready to digest external feed well before the yolk sac was absorbed into the abdominal cavity. In contrast to post-smolt Atlantic salmon, inclusion of SBM did not induce intestinal inflammation in the juveniles. This indicates that SBM can be used in compound feeds for salmon fry from start-feeding to at least 144 dph and/or 4-5 g body weight.
Sahlmann, C., Gu, J., Kortner, T. M., Lein, I., Krogdahl, Å., & Bakke, A. M. (2015). Ontogeny of the digestive system of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) and effects of soybean meal from start-feeding. PLoS ONE, 10(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0124179