How Oil Drops in Fish Embryos Impact Their Survival

Jim Crocker
24th March, 2024

How Oil Drops in Fish Embryos Impact Their Survival

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In European hake, proper attachment of an oil layer to an oil droplet in eggs is crucial for embryo survival
  • Eggs that float well have a higher chance of this essential oil layer attachment
  • Egg buoyancy, and thus survival, is affected by changing ocean conditions like currents and salinity
Understanding the factors that influence the survival and development of fish eggs is crucial for the sustainability of fisheries and marine ecosystems. One such factor is egg specific gravity, which affects how eggs float in the water column, influencing their dispersal and the survival of the developing fish larvae. Researchers from the Instituto Español de Oceanografía have conducted a study[1] that sheds light on the biological mechanisms that contribute to the buoyancy of fish eggs, focusing on a species known as Merluccius merluccius, commonly known as the European hake. The study examines a process called oil droplet adhesion (ODA) in the eggs of the European hake. This process involves the adhesion of an oil-drop covering layer (OCL) to an oil droplet (OD) within the embryo. The OCL is a structure that plays a key role in mobilizing lipid reserves from the oil droplet to the developing embryo, which is essential for its growth and survival. Researchers found that the successful adhesion of the OCL to the OD is a critical event that determines whether the embryo will survive after hatching. Eggs in which this adhesion process occurred correctly were referred to as ODA eggs, while those in which it did not were called ODNA eggs. The ODNA eggs often died shortly after hatching, highlighting the importance of this morphogenetic process. The study also revealed that the buoyancy of the egg, which allows it to float and rotate within the protective perivitelline space, is vital for the ODA process. The ability to float is influenced by the egg's specific gravity, which in turn depends on several oceanic properties, including water currents, turbulence, oxygen levels, rainfall, and salinity. Changes in these environmental factors, which are often rapid and unpredictable, could pose a significant threat to the survival of fish larvae and, by extension, the recruitment of fisheries. In the context of this research, prior studies provide valuable insights into the challenges faced by fish eggs in different environments. For instance, hydropower projects have been shown to alter the physical habitat of rivers, affecting the hydrodynamic conditions necessary for the survival of fish with semi-buoyant eggs[2]. This underscores the importance of understanding the environmental requirements for successful fish reproduction. Furthermore, the impact of climate change on biological systems, including fish, is another area of concern. Previous research on a model coral reef fish demonstrated that gradual warming across generations can affect the reproductive output and quality of offspring, with significant implications for species' ability to acclimate to changing temperatures[3]. This is relevant to the current study, as temperature and other environmental factors can influence egg specific gravity and buoyancy. Additionally, the study of Atlantic cod eggs has contributed to our understanding of the factors that affect egg buoyancy, such as the specific gravity of the yolk and embryo and the volume of the chorion[4]. These insights are complementary to the findings of the Instituto Español de Oceanografía, as they highlight the complex interplay between egg composition, development, and environmental conditions. Lastly, the research on cod embryos has shown that temperature significantly affects water permeability, which is closely related to egg buoyancy and the ability to float in seawater[5]. This again ties into the current study's focus on the physical conditions that influence the buoyancy and survival of fish embryos. In conclusion, the study by the Instituto Español de Oceanografía advances our knowledge of the biological mechanisms that underpin fish egg buoyancy and survival. The findings emphasize the need for a deeper understanding of how environmental factors, including those altered by human activities and climate change, impact the early life stages of fish. Such knowledge is essential for the conservation of marine biodiversity and the management of fisheries that depend on the successful recruitment of species like the European hake.

Animal ScienceMarine BiologyEvolution


Main Study

1) The embryo-oil drop assembly: the timing and morphology of a critical event for fish early-life history survival.

Published 22nd March, 2024

Related Studies

2) The influence of cascade hydropower development on the hydrodynamic conditions impacting the reproductive process of fish with semi-buoyant eggs.

3) Transgenerational plasticity of reproduction depends on rate of warming across generations.

Journal: Evolutionary applications, Issue: Vol 9, Issue 9, Oct 2016

4) Experimental parameterisation of principal physics in buoyancy variations of marine teleost eggs.

5) Water balance in developing eggs of the codGadus morhua L.

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