The moult cycle is arguably the most critical aspect of crustacean biology and is associated with dramatic changes in behaviour, physiology and condition. Here we describe the first detailed investigation of the combined changes in morphology, physiological status and nutritional condition over the moult cycle of juvenile ()T. australiensis(). Haemolymph refractive index (measured as Brix) was evaluated as a non-destructive method for predicting physiological status and nutritional condition. Post-moult, inter-moult and pre-moult stages were identifiable by microscopic examination of the pleopod distal tips, though differentiation of the pre-moult substages was not possible using this technique. Monitoring of ecdysial suture lines on the exoskeleton gill chambers was found to be highly useful for visually determining progression through the pre-moult stage and predicting the timing of ecdysis. A classical pattern of inter-moult growth was observed where size and wet weight remained relatively uniform over the moult cycle while highly significant changes in whole-body composition were simultaneously observed over time. Growth was most evident by changes in dry weight and dry matter content which more than doubled by the onset of pre-moult. Changes in dry matter content were generally mirrored by Brix and whole-body crude protein, total lipid and gross energy content. Brix strongly correlated with dry matter content and significant correlations were also found for all other primary measures of nutritional condition. Typical moult-related changes were also found for circulating ecdysteroids. This study clearly demonstrates pronounced cyclical changes in physiology and condition of juvenile ()T. australiensis() over a typical moult cycle. The significant correlations between haemolymph and whole-body composition validates Brix as a practical and non-destructive method to objectively assess physiological status, nutritional condition and quality in T. australiensis and further demonstrates its potential for individual crustacean assessment in experimental research and practical commercial applications.
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Landman, M.J., Fitzgibbon, Q.P., Wirtz, A., Codabaccus, B.M., Ventura, T., Smith, G.G. & Carter, C.G, 2020. "Physiological status and nutritional condition of cultured juvenile ()Thenus australiensis() over the moult cycle", Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part - B: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, vol. 250.
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