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Allometric growth patterns and development in larvae and juveniles of thick-lipped grey mullet Chelon labrosus reared in mesocosm conditions



Allometric growth and ontogeny were studied in thick-lipped grey mullet Chelon labrosus reared in mesocosms from 1 to 71 day post hatching (dph). Multivariate allometric analysis of morphometric growth distinguished three distinct developmental stanzas separated by two morphometric metamorphosis lengths (Lm1 = 4.46 ± 0.06 mm; Lm2 = 28.56 ± 1.04 mm). Body mass growth also showed three distinct episodes separated by two inflections, correlated with morpho-functional changes. First episode concerned pre-flexion larvae and ended around 4.5 mm-LT (14-dph), coinciding with estimated Lm1. It was distinguished by reduced growth, but intense morphogenesis and differentiation processes. Organogenesis and allometric changes indicated that development priorities concerned feeding efficiency, by improving detection ability (sensory system development), ingestion capacity (head growth) and assimilation performance (digestive system differentiation), together with respiration efficiency (gill development). Second episode concerned post-flexion larvae and, ended around 8.6 mm-LT (25-dph). It was distinguished by fast growth of trunk and tail, acquisition of adult axial muscle distribution and completion of gill filament development, improving locomotion and oxygenation performances. It corresponded to transition towards metamorphosing stage as indicated by later isometric growth, musculature maturation and acquisition of juvenile phenotype. Metamorphosis seemed to end at Lm2, suggesting to avoid zootechnic handling before this size.