Use of muscle activity indices as a relative measure of well-being in cultured sea bass Dicentrarchus labrax (Linnaeus, 1758)

  • G. Lembo
  • P. Carbonara
  • M. Scolamacchia
  • M. T. Spedicato
  • R. S. McKinley
Fish Telemetry
Part of the Developments in Hydrobiology 195 book series (DIHY, volume 195)


Aquaculture of sea bass is widely spread in the Mediterranean and employs a variety of husbandry protocols that need to be evaluated in terms of fish well-being. Behavioural tests can be used as operational indicators of short-term stress, because changes in swimming performance and/or muscle activity (e.g. electromyograms) can be interpreted as response associated with a wide variety of stressors. Diagnostic procedures, based on physiological telemetry, will thus enable appropriate mitigative strategies to be implemented to ensure the well-being of cultured fish. The objective of this study was to examine the contribution of two muscle types to the swimming activity of sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax, L. 1758). Hard-wire technology was used to ‘fine-tune’ measures obtained using a physiological transmitter. Fine-tuning showed that the aerobic muscle displayed an increase in recruitment of muscle fibres relative to increasing swimming speed up to 0.6–0.7 ms−1 of the Ucrit, where the anaerobic (white muscle) activity started to exponentially augment with swimming speed, reaching up to ∼7 times its initial value. Intensity of electromyogram signals were described by logarithmic (red muscle): y = 0.5922Ln(x) + 1.2251 (R 2 = 0.9906) and exponential (white muscle): y = 0.0977e2.4723x (R 2 = 0.9845) relationships. Fine-tuning indicated that the two muscle types in the sea bass are involved in fuelling swimming activity below the Ucrit. Thus, scope for activity is not supported solely using aerobic metabolism, though the red muscle powers the majority of the swimming ability. Measurement of Ucrit displayed an average value of 3.43 BLsec−1 (SE = 0.12). Associated EMG values measured during the forced swim trials using an implanted bio-sensitive radio transmitter showed that EMG’s intensity increased, on average, 3.2 times between 0.2 msec−1 and the Ucrit velocity (∼1 msec−1). Above EMG values were fine-tuned using estimates obtained from direct monitoring of the red and white musculature. Overall, the results demonstrated that the scope for activity, previously thought to represent only aerobic metabolism, is composed of both aerobic and anaerobic pathways. Fine-tuning of physiological transmitters to measure activity of free ranging fish can therefore be utilised to monitor the proportion of the scope of activity utilised in response to external stressors. This proportion and the level of compensatory ability remaining could represent a measure of well-being in cultured fish.


Sea bass Activity levels Electromyograms Fish well-being Physiological telemetry 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Beddow, T. A. & R. S. McKinley, 1998. Effect of thermal environment on electromyographical signals obtained from Atlantic salmon (Salmon salar L.) during forced swimming. Hydrobiologia 371/372: 225–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beddow, T. A. & R. S. McKinley, 1999. Importance of electrode positioning in biotelemetry studies estimating muscle activity in fish. Journal of Fish Biology 54: 819–831.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bhattacharya, C. G., 1967. A simple method of resolution of a distribution into Gaussian components. Biometrics 23: 115–135.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brauner, C. J., G. K. Iwama & D. J. Randall, 1994. The effect of short-duration seawater exposure on the swimming performance of wild and hatchery-reared juvenile coho salmon (Oncorhyncus kisutch) during smoltification. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 51: 2188–2194.Google Scholar
  5. Brett, J. R., 1964. The respiratory metabolism and swimming performance of young sockeye salmon. Journal of Fisheries Research Board of Canada 21: 1183–1226.Google Scholar
  6. Briggs, C. T. & J. R. Post, 1996. In situ activity metabolism of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss): estimates obtained from telemetry of axial muscle electromyograms. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 54: 859–866.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown, R. S. & D. R. Geist, 2002. Determination of swimming speeds and energetic demands of upriver migrating fall chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) in the Klickitat river. Bonneville Power Administration, U.S. Department of Energy, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, 76 pp.Google Scholar
  8. Burgetz, I. J., A. Rojas-Vargas, S. G. Hinch & D. J. Randall, 1998. Initial recruitment of anaerobic metabolism during sub-maximal swimming in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). Journal of Experimental Biology 201: 2711–2721.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Carbonara, P., M. Scolamacchia, M. T. Spedicato., G. Lembo & R. S. McKinley, 2006. Swimming performance as a well-being indicator of reared sea-bass. Preliminary results. Biologia Marina Mediterranea 13(1): 488–491.Google Scholar
  10. Chandroo, K. P., S. J. Cooke, R. S. McKinley & R. D. Moccia, 2005. Use of electromyogram telemetry to assess the behavioural and energetic responses of rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss (Walbaum) to transportation stress. Aquaculture Research 36: 1226–1238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chatelier, A., D. J. McKenzie & G. Claireaux, 2005. Effects of changes in water salinity upon exercise and cardiac performance in the European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax). Marine Biology 147: 855–862.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cooke, S. J., K. P. Chandroo, T. A. Beddow, R. D. Moccia & R. S. McKinley, 2000. Swimming activity and energetic expenditure of captive rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss (Walbaum) estimated by electromyogram telemetry. Aquatic Research 31: 495–505.Google Scholar
  13. Dewar, H. & J. B. Graham, 1994. Studies of tropical tuna swimming performance in a large water tunnel, I Energetics. Journal of Experimental Biology 192: 13–31.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Demers, E., R. S. McKinley, A. H. Weatherley & D. J. McQueen, 1996. Activity pattern of largemouth and smallmouth bass determined with electromyogram biotelemetry. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 125: 434–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ellerby, D. J., J. D. Altringham, T. Williams & B. A. Block, 2000. Slow muscle function of Pacific Bonito (Sarda chiliensis) during steady swimming. Journal of Experimental Biology 203: 2001–2013.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Farrell, A. P., K. Gamperl & I. K. Birthwell, 1998. Prolonged swimming, recovery and repeat swimming performance of mature sockeye salmon Onchorhyncus nerka exposed to moderate hypoxia and pentachlorophenol. Journal of Experimental Biology 201: 2183–2193.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Fry F. E. J., 1971. The effect of environmental factors on the physiology of fish. In Hoar, W. S. & D. J. Randall (eds), Fish Physiology, VI, Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  18. FSBI, 2002. Fish Welfare. Briefing Paper 2, Fisheries Society of the British Isles, Granta Information Systems, 82A High Street, Sawston, Cambridge CB2 4H.Google Scholar
  19. Gayanilo, F. C. Jr., P. Sparre & D. Pauly, 1996. FAO-ICLARM Stock Assessment Tools (FISAT) User’s Manual. FAO–Computerized Information Series–fisheries, 1–126.Google Scholar
  20. Geist, D. R., C. S. Abernethy, S. L. Blanton & V. I. Cullinan, 2000. The use of electromyogram telemetry to estimate energy expenditure of adult Fall Chinook Salmon. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 129: 126–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Geist, D. R., R. S. Brown, K. Lepla & J. Chandler, 2002. Practical application of electromyogramm radiotelemetry: the suitability of applying laboratory-acquired calibration data to field data. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 22: 474–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jain, K. E. & A. P. Farrell, 2003. Influence of seasonal temperature on the repeat swimming performance of rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss. The Journal of Experimental Biology 206: 3569–3579.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Massee, K. C., M. B. Rust, R. W. Hardy & R. R. Stickney, 1995. The effectiveness of tricaine, quinaldine sulfate and metomidate as anesthetics for larval fish. Aquaculture 134: 351–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. McFarlane, W. J., K. F. Cubitt, H. Williams, D. Rowsell, R. Moccia, R. Gosine & R. S. McKinley, 2004. Can feeding status and stress level be assessed by analyzing pattern of muscle activity in free swimming rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss Walbaum)? Aquaculture 239: 467–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. McKinley, R. S. & G. Power, 1992. Measurement of activity and oxygen consumption for adult lake sturgeon (Aciepenser fulvescens) in the wild using radio-trasmitted EMG signals. In Priede, I. G. & S. M. Swift (eds), Wildlife Telemetry. Ellis Horwood series in environmental management, science and technology, 307–318 pp.Google Scholar
  26. Økland, F., B. Finstad, R. S. McKinley, E. B. Thorstad & R. K. Booth, 1997. Radio-trasmitted electromyogram signals as indicators of physical activity in Atlantic salmon. Journal of Fish Biology 51: 476–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Økland, F., I. Fleming, E. B. Thorstad, B. Finstad, S. Einum & R. S. McKinley, 2002. EMG radio tag in recording the spawning behaviour of Atlantic salmon: effect, reliability and accuracy. In Moore, A. & I. Russell (eds), Proceeding for the Third Conference on Fish Telemetry held in Europe, 20–25 June, Norwich, UK. Advance in Fish telemetry, The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Suffolk, UK, 51–58 pp.Google Scholar
  28. Quintella, B. R., N. O. Andrade, A. Koed & P. R. Almeida, 2004. Behavioural patterns of sea lampreys’ spawning migration through difficult passage areas, studied by electromyogram telemetry. Journal of Fish Biology 65: 961–972.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Randall, D. J., D. Mense & R. G. Boutilier, 1987. The effects of burst swimming on aerobic swimming in Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). Marine Behaviour and Physiology 13: 77–88.Google Scholar
  30. Reidy, S. P., S. R. Kerr & J. A. Nelson, 2000. Aerobic and anaerobic swimming performance of individual Atlantic cod. Journal of Experimental Biology 203: 347–357.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Rome, L. C., I. -H. Choi, G. Lutz & A. Sosnicki, 1992. The influence of temperature on muscle function in the fast swimming scup I. Shortening velocity and muscle recruitment during swimming. Journal of Experimental Biology 163: 259–279.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Smit, H., J. M. Amelink-Koutstaal, J. Vijverberg & J. C. Von Vaupel-Klein, 1971. Oxygen consumption and swimming efficiency of swimming goldfish. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 39: 1–28.Google Scholar
  33. Thorstad, E. B., B. Finstad, F. Økland, R. S. McKinley & R. K. Booth, 1997. Endurance of farmed and sea-ranched Atlantic salmon (Salmon salar L.) at spawning. Aquatic Research 28: 635–640.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Thorstad, E. B., F. Økland, A. Koed & R. S. McKinley, 2000. Radio-transmitted electromyogram signals as indicators of swimming speed in lake trout and brown trout. Journal of Fish Biology 57: 547–561.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Weatherley, A. H., P. A. Daseloo, M. D. Gare, J. M. Gunn & B. Lipicnik, 1996. Field activity of lake trout during the reproductive period monitored by electromyogram radiotelemetry. Journal of Fish Biology 48: 675–685.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Lembo
    • 1
  • P. Carbonara
    • 1
  • M. Scolamacchia
    • 1
  • M. T. Spedicato
    • 1
  • R. S. McKinley
    • 2
  1. 1.COISPA Technology & ResearchBari-Torre a MareItaly
  2. 2.Centre for Aquaculture and Environmental ResearchThe University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

Personalised recommendations