The adenylate energy charge as a new and useful indicator of capture stress in chondrichthyans
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Quantifying the physiological stress response of chondrichthyans to capture has assisted the development of fishing practices conducive to their survival. However, currently used indicators of stress show significant interspecific and intraspecific variation in species’ physiological responses and tolerances to capture. To improve our understanding of chondrichthyan stress physiology and potentially reduce variation when quantifying the stress response, we investigated the use of the adenylate energy charge (AEC); a measure of available metabolic energy. To determine tissues sensitive to metabolic stress, we extracted samples of the brain, heart, liver, white muscle and blood from gummy sharks (Mustelus antarcticus) immediately following gillnet capture and after 3 h recovery under laboratory conditions. Capture caused significant declines in liver, white muscle and blood AEC, whereas no decline was detected in the heart and brain AEC. Following 3 h of recovery from capture, the AEC of the liver and blood returned to “unstressed” levels (control values) whereas white muscle AEC was not significantly different to that immediately after capture. Our results show that the liver is most sensitive to metabolic stress and white muscle offers a practical method to sample animals non-lethally for determination of the AEC. The AEC is a highly informative indicator of stress and unlike current indicators, it can directly measure the change in available energy and thus the metabolic stress experienced by a given tissue. Cellular metabolism is highly conserved across organisms and, therefore, we think the AEC can also provide a standardised form of measuring capture stress in many chondrichthyan species.