Winter flounder from Passamaquoddy Bay, N.B. undergo an annual fast from November to May which results in a decrease in the slope of the length-weight relationship (3·17 to 2·54), in the condition factor (9 to 12%), in the liver (75%) and white muscle (24%) lipid contents, and an increase in muscle water content (2·4%). Winter flounder appear to have sufficient lipid reserves to support the winter fast, as muscle water content declined only at the onset of feeding.
The intestine could be divided into pyloric caeca (4), foregut, midgut and hindgut. Mucosal folding was reduced in all sections of the intestine during the fast. Goblet cell number declined, but little change in enterocyte ultrastructure was observed. Intestinal length remained the same, although the caeca shortened. Overall, mucosal mass declined by 57% from May to January, while surface area declined by 50%. This value is less than that in literature reports for a fast of shorter duration in freshwater rainbow trout. We propose that the continued need for salt and water transport for osmoregulation maintains the proximodistal gradient of mass and surface area and ameliorates the effect of starvation on mucosal mass and area.