Journal of Comparative Physiology B

, Volume 188, Issue 1, pp 101–112 | Cite as

Post-prandial physiology and intestinal morphology of the Pacific hagfish (Eptatretus stoutii)

  • Alyssa M. WeinrauchEmail author
  • Alexander M. Clifford
  • Greg G. Goss
Original Paper


Hagfishes are unique to the vertebrate lineage in that they acquire dissolved nutrients across multiple epithelia including the intestine, gill, and skin. This feat has been attributed to their immersive feeding behavior that likely simultaneously provides benefits (nutrient rich) and potentially adverse (hypercapnia, hypoxia, high environmental ammonia) physiological effects. Examinations have been conducted of the ex vivo transport capabilities of specific nutrients as well as in vivo effects of the hypothesized feeding environments, yet the physiological effects of feeding itself have never been elucidated. We examined the post-prandial physiology of Pacific hagfish (Eptatretus stoutii), identifying changes in oxygen consumption, acid–base balance, ammonia waste excretion, and intestinal morphology following feeding in captivity. Following voluntary feeding, post-prandial oxygen consumption was significantly elevated (1868 ± 272 µmol kg−1 h−1) 8 h following feeding when compared to control resting metabolic oxygen consumption (642 ± 51 µmol kg−1 h−1) and resulted in a factorial metabolic scope of 2.92. Changes in acid–base status were not observed following feeding in either the excreted components or the caudal blood samples; however, a significant alkalosis was observed 8 h post-feeding in the major intestinal blood vein. Significant increases (16-fold) in ammonia excretion were recorded in 36 h post-fed hagfish. Finally, significant post-prandial increases in intestinal mucosal thickness and microvilli length were observed, with mucosal thickness remaining significantly increased throughout 36 h and the microvilli length returning to fasted lengths by 36 h. These results demonstrate the post-feeding physiology of the earliest diverging extant craniate and identify correlations between physiology and hindgut morphology 8 h following feeding.


Agnatha Feeding Digestion Acid–base Morphology 



The authors would like to thank Arlene Oatway of the University of Alberta Microscopy Sciences Department and the staff at Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, with particular thanks to the research coordinator Dr. Eric Clelland and Janice Pierce for hagfish collection. Many thanks to anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. AMW was supported by a NSERC-PGSD, The Presidents Doctoral Prize of Distinction, Queen Elizabeth II Scholarship, Sigurd Tviet Memorial Scholarship, Dick and Leona Peter BMSC Residential bursary and the John Boom Scholarship. AMC is supported by an NSERC-PGSD, Alberta Innovates Technology Futures—Omics Scholarship, The President’s Doctoral Prize of Distinction, Donald M. Ross Memorial Scholarship, R. E. (Dick) Peter Memorial Scholarship, Andrew Stewart Memorial Prize, Western Canadian Universities Marine Sciences Society Graduate Student Award and the Dick and Leona Peter BMSC residential bursary. This research was supported by an NSERC Discovery Grant (203736) to GGG.

Supplementary material

360_2017_1118_MOESM1_ESM.docx (7.7 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 7907 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alyssa M. Weinrauch
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Alexander M. Clifford
    • 1
    • 2
  • Greg G. Goss
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Bamfield Marine Sciences CentreBamfieldCanada

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