Embryonic temperature modulates muscle growth characteristics in larval and juvenile herring

Ian Alistair Johnston, NJ Cole, M Abercromby, VLA Vieira

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The influence of embryonic and larval temperature regime on muscle growth was investigated in Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus L.). Eggs of spring-spawning Clyde herring were incubated at 5 degrees C, 8 degrees C off 12 degrees C until hatching and then reared until after metamorphosis at rising temperatures to simulate a seasonal warming, Metamorphosis to the juvenile stage was complete at 37 mm total length (TL), after an estimated 177 days as a larva at 5 degrees C, 117 days at 8 degrees C and 101 days at 12 degrees C, Growth rate and the development of median fins were retarded in relation to body length at 5 degrees C compared with 8 degrees C and 12 degrees C, Between hatching (at 8-9 mm TL) and 16 mm TL, there was a threefold increase in total muscle cross-sectional area, largely due to the hypertrophy of the embryonic red and white muscle fibres, The recruitment of additional white muscle fibres started at approximately 15 mm TL at all temperatures, and by 37 mm was estimated to be 66 fibres day(-1) at 5 degrees C and 103 fibres day(-1) at 8 degrees C and 12 degrees C, Peptide mapping studies revealed a change in myosin heavy chain composition in white muscle fibres between 20 and 25 mm TL, Embryonic red muscle fibres expressed fast myosin light chains until 24-28 mm TL at 5 degrees C and 22 mm TL at 12 degrees C, and new red fibres were added at the horizontal septum starting at the same body lengths, Following metamorphosis, the total cross-sectional area of muscle was similar at different temperatures, although the number of red and white fibres per myotome was significantly greater at the warmest than at the coldest regime, For example, the mean number of white muscle fibres per myotome in 50 mm TL juveniles was calculated to be 23.4 % higher at 12 degrees C (12065) than at 5 degrees C (9775), In other experiments, spring-spawning (Clyde) and autumn-spawning (Manx) herring were reared at different temperatures until first feeding and then transferred to ambient seawater temperature and fed an libitum for constant periods, These experiments showed that, for both stocks, the temperature of embryonic development influenced the subsequent rate of muscle fibre recruitment and hypertrophy as well as the density of muscle nuclei, Labelling experiments with 5'-bromo-2-deoxyuridine showed that both the hypertrophy and recruitment of muscle fibres involved a rapidly proliferating population of myogenic precursor cells. The cellular mechanisms underlying the environmental modulation of muscle growth phenotype are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)623-646
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1998


  • temperature
  • muscle
  • growth
  • larva
  • fish
  • herring
  • Clupea harengus
  • peptide mapping


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