Marine Biology

, 166:102 | Cite as

Are European sea bass as euryhaline as expected? Intraspecific variation in freshwater tolerance

  • L’Honoré Thibaut
  • Farcy Emilie
  • Chatain Béatrice
  • Gros Romain
  • Ruelle François
  • Hermet Sophie
  • Blondeau-Bidet Eva
  • Naudet Jeanne
  • Lorin-Nebel CatherineEmail author
Original Paper


In teleosts, the regulation of hydromineral balance has a direct impact on several physiological functions, biochemical processes, and can influence behaviour, distribution and survival. As European sea bass Dicentrarchus labrax undertake seasonal migrations from seawater (SW) to brackish, estuarine and fresh water (FW) in their habitat, this study investigates their capacity to tolerate fresh water and explores intraspecific variations in physiological responses. Juvenile D. labrax were transferred from SW to FW at various ages. Freshwater-tolerant and non-tolerant phenotypes were discriminated according to behavioural and morphological characteristics. About 30% of the fish exposed to FW were identified as freshwater intolerant following FW challenges performed at different ages. Interestingly, intolerant fish exhibited the same phenotypic traits: erratic swimming, lower speed, isolation from the shoal and darker colour. Freshwater-intolerant fish were also characterised by a significant lower blood osmolality compared to tolerant fish, and significantly lower Na+/K+-ATPase α1a expression in the posterior kidney. An imbalance in ion regulatory mechanisms was further confirmed by a blood Na+/Cl ratio imbalance observed in some freshwater-intolerant fish. The analysis of glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptor expression levels in gills and kidney revealed significant differences between freshwater-intolerant and -tolerant fish in both organs, suggesting differential stress-related responses. This study clearly shows an intraspecific difference in the responses following FW transfer with a decreased renal ion uptake capacity as a major cause for freshwater intolerance.



We would like to thank Bruno Guinand, François Bonhomme, David McKenzie and Laurence Besseau for their critical comments on this topic, Stephane Lallement, Marie-Odile Blanc and Alain Vergnet of Ifremer Palavas-les-flots for helping us in the design of the experiment and maintenance of the fish. The project used instruments that were financially supported by the 2015–2020 CPER CELIMER (funded by the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation, the Occitanie Region, Montpellier Méditerranée Metropolis, Sète Agglopole Méditerranée, Ifremer, IRD).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. The experimental design has been approved by the French legal requirement concerning welfare of experimental animals (APAFIS Permit No. 9045-201701068219555).

Supplementary material

227_2019_3551_MOESM1_ESM.tif (118 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (TIFF 117 kb)
227_2019_3551_MOESM2_ESM.docx (35 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 35 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • L’Honoré Thibaut
    • 1
  • Farcy Emilie
    • 1
  • Chatain Béatrice
    • 2
    • 3
  • Gros Romain
    • 1
  • Ruelle François
    • 3
  • Hermet Sophie
    • 1
  • Blondeau-Bidet Eva
    • 1
  • Naudet Jeanne
    • 1
  • Lorin-Nebel Catherine
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Univ Montpellier, CNRS, IFREMER, IRD, UM, MARBECMontpellierFrance
  2. 2.Univ Montpellier, CNRS, IFREMER, IRD, UM, MARBECPalavas-les-FlotsFrance
  3. 3.Univ Montpellier, CNRS, IFREMER, IRD, UM, LSEAPalavas-les-FlotsFrance

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