Looking for environmental and endocrine factors inducing the transformation of Sicyopterus lagocephalus (Pallas 1770) (Teleostei: Gobiidae: Sicydiinae) freshwater prolarvae into marine larvae

  • Céline EllienEmail author
  • Romain Causse
  • Ugo Werner
  • Nils Teichert
  • Karine Rousseau


During their ontogenetic development, many species of fishes undergo drastic changes which may be defined as true metamorphosis when they are induced by thyroid hormones. Sicyopterus lagocephalus is an amphidromous goby that has to change biome twice during its life cycle. The first biome shift occurs few hours after hatching in the river. The aim of the present study is to determine what external/environmental and internal/endocrine factors induce the transformation of freshwater prolarvae into marine larvae. First, we experimentally determined that the minimum salinity threshold inducing the transformation of all the prolarvae into marine larvae is 1.5, whereas a salinity of 0.2 induces the transformation of a few prolarvae. Similarly, an 18-h immersion in seawater before the return to freshwater is enough to induce the transformation of all the prolarvae into marine larvae, even though an immersion for 3 h can induce the transformation of a few prolarvae. Furthermore, we demonstrated that a simulated increase in the osmotic pressure of freshwater does not trigger the transformation of the prolarvae into marine larvae. Our study also reveals that among the various constituent salts of seawater, it is primarily NaCl and K+ that induce the transformation of the prolarvae, leading to the assumption that the membrane protein Na+/K+-ATPase is activated simultaneously with the prolarval transformation. Finally, we showed that thyroid hormones and cortisol are not involved in the prolarval transformation, leading to the conclusion that this first transformation in the life cycle of S. lagocephalus cannot be considered as a true metamorphosis.


Amphidromy Metamorphosis Salinity Osmotic pressure Thyroid hormones Cortisol 



This work was supported by the French National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) through the Action Thématique du Museum “Cycles Biologiques” funding programme. The authors thank Prof. Philippe Keith for proofing the draft and for his advices during our work. The authors thank David Lord, accredited advanced translator, for the time he spent on proofing our manuscript and for his invaluable help in improving the quality of the text. We also thank the two reviewers for their useful comments that helped us improving the quality of the manuscript.

Authors’ contributions

All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Data collection was performed by CE, UW, RC and NT. The experiments were carried out by CE, UW and RC. The first draft of the manuscript was written by CE, and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Unité Biologie des Organismes et Ecosystèmes Aquatiques (BOREA)Sorbonne Université, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Université de Caen Normandie, Université des Antilles, CNRS, IRDParis Cedex 05France
  2. 2.Hydrô Réunion, Z.I. Les SablesEtang SaléFrance

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