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Intestinal morphology of the wild atlantic salmon (Salmo salar)


Correspondence to: Erling Olaf Koppang, Department of Basic Sciences and Aquatic Medicine, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Norway. E-mail:


The worldwide-industrialized production of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) has increased dramatically during the last decades, followed by diseases related to the on-going domestication process as a growing concern. Even though the gastrointestinal tract seems to be a target for different disorders in farmed fish, a description of the normal intestinal status in healthy, wild salmon is warranted. Here, we provide such information in addition to suggesting a referable anatomical standardization for the intestine. In this study, two groups of wild Atlantic salmon were investigated, consisting of post smolts on feed caught in the sea and of sexually mature, starved individuals sampled from a river. The two groups represent different stages in the anadromous salmon life cycle, which also are part of the production cycle of farmed salmon. Selected regions of gastrointestinal tract were subjected to morphological investigations including immunohistochemical, scanning electron microscopic, and morphometric analyses. A morphology-based nomenclature was established, defining the cardiac part of the stomach and five different regions of the Atlantic salmon intestine, including pyloric caeca, first segment of the mid-intestine with pyloric caeca, first segment of the mid-intestine posterior to pyloric caeca, second segment of the mid-intestine and posterior intestinal segment. In each of the above described regions, for both groups of fish, morphometrical measurements and regional histological investigations were performed with regards to magnitude and direction of mucosal folding as well as the composition of the intestinal wall. Additionally, immunohistochemistry showing cells positive for cytokeratins, α-actin and proliferating cell nuclear antigen, in addition to alkaline phosphatase reactivity in the segments is presented. J. Morphol. 274:859–876, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.