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Neotropical Ichthyology

Print version ISSN 1679-6225On-line version ISSN 1982-0224


SOUZA-BASTOS, Luciana Rodrigues de; FREIRE, Carolina Arruda  and  FERNANDES-DE-CASTILHO, Marisa. Skin extract from Rhamdia quelen(Siluriformes: Heptapteridae) does not promote stress in conspecifics. Neotrop. ichthyol. [online]. 2014, vol.12, n.1, pp.125-132. ISSN 1679-6225.

Chemical communication is widely used in aquatic environments, where visual or auditory signals may not be always effective. Fish of the superorder Ostariophysi are known to display epidermal cells (club cells) that produce and store alarm substances, which are released to the water when the skin is damaged. Responses to alarm substances range widely, between active searches for refuge to a complete stop in any locomotor activity. In this study a large number of binucleated club cells (average density of 11 cells /5m2) were histologically observed in the skin of the catfish Rhamdia quelen (known as jundia). Skin extract (2, 5, and 10% w/v) applied for 15 minutes to conspecifics elicited increase in swimming activity and in the area visited by the fish inside the tank. However, exposure to the epithelial alarm cue did not evoke any stress response: plasma osmolality, ions (sodium, chloride, magnesium, and potassium), glucose and cortisol remained unchanged. In conclusion, the conspecific alarm cue of the jundia induces behavioral responses but not an acute stress response upon short-term exposure, compatible with its role in fostering physical integrity without representing major stress activation. Considering that in the natural environment such stimuli must quickly disappear due to dilution and that rapid protection responses may be necessary upon the possibility of an approaching predator, a faster mechanism to assure survival may come into play, such as sympathetic nervous system activation.

Keywords : Anti-predator behavior; Chemical communication; Club cell; Fish stress; Jundia.

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