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Investigating a relationship between body composition and spinal curvature in farmed adult New Zealand king salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha): A novel application of dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry

Lovett, Bailey A., Firth, Elwyn C., Plank, Lindsay D., Symonds, Jane E., Preece, Mark A., Herbert, Neill A.
Aquaculture 2019 v.502 pp. 48-55
Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, adults, animal tissues, body composition, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, females, fish, mineral content, swimming, New Zealand
Characterising the pathology of skeletal anomalies in farmed finfish is key to elucidating the underlying causes. Spinal curvature is frequently observed in farmed New Zealand king salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), but its cause is currently unknown and knowledge about its pathology is limited. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) was used to investigate the relationship between spinal curvature and body composition in farmed adult New Zealand king salmon. Differences in fat mass (FM), lean mass (LM) and bone mineral content (BMC) between harvest-sized fish affected and unaffected by spinal curvature were evaluated. As there is presently no evidence of an association between spinal curvature and vertebral mineral loss, between-group differences in BMC were not anticipated. Conversely, as spinal anomalies can alter the swimming and feeding of affected fish, and existing research suggests a role for soft tissues in spinal curvature development, differences in FM and LM were expected. Whole-body and regional (cranial, trunco-cranial, trunco-caudal and caudal spine) measurements of percent FM, LM and BMC were obtained from lateral DXA scans of size-matched adult female king salmon (1890–6903 g) affected (n = 31) and unaffected (n = 31) by spinal curvature. Repeatability was comparable to previous DXA studies. Measurements of FM and LM by DXA and chemical carcass analysis (CCA) were highly similar. As frequently reported in previous animal-based studies, DXA-derived BMC values were significantly lower than those obtained from CCA. Contrary to the overarching hypothesis, there were no significant between-group differences in whole-body or regional FM, LM or BMC, suggesting that there was no relationship between body composition and spinal curvature. Though the relationship between soft tissue changes and spinal curvature remains to be determined, DXA appears to be a viable tool for non-invasive assessment of king salmon body composition. However, studying end-stage disease has recognised limitations, so future investigations should utilise longitudinal designs.