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Alternative matrices for cortisol measurement in fish


Correspondence: D Bertotto, Department of Experimental Veterinary Sciences, University of Padova, Viale dell'Università 16 Agripolis, 35020 Legnaro (PD), Italy. E-mail:


Plasma cortisol is the most commonly used indicator of stress in fish but, as the blood sampling procedure itself can be a source of stress, it would be helpful to measure cortisol using less invasive matrices. It is also necessary to find alternative matrices as stress indicators in dead fish in which blood sampling is impossible. In the present study, we investigated transport stress in three aquaculture species, European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax L.), common carp (Cyprinus carpio L.) and rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss Walbaum), by cortisol determination (radioimmunoassay) in plasma and other matrices (skin mucus, gut content, lateral muscle and caudal fin). Cortisol significantly increased after transport in all species and matrices, except in the sea bass gut content, where it remained unchanged. The three species responded to transport stress by producing different cortisol levels. In conclusion, the significant correlation found between plasma cortisol and most of the other matrices opens up the possibility of using them to evaluate stress in fish: mucus sampling is a less invasive method than blood sampling, and in addition to muscle and fin sampling, it can be used in postmortem fish.