Simulated heatwave and fishing stressors alter corticosteroid and energy balance in neonate blacktip reef sharks, Carcharhinus melanopterus

Schoen, Alexandra N., Bouyoucos, Ian, Anderson, W. Gary, Wheaton, Catharine J., Planes, Serge, Mylniczenko, Natalie D., and Rummer, Jodie L. (2021) Simulated heatwave and fishing stressors alter corticosteroid and energy balance in neonate blacktip reef sharks, Carcharhinus melanopterus. Conservation Physiology, 9 (1). coab067.

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The increasing frequency and duration of marine heatwaves attributed to climate change threatens coastal elasmobranchs and may exacerbate existing anthropogenic stressors. While the elasmobranch stress response has been well studied, the role of the unique corticosteroid-1α-hydroxycorticosterone (1α-OHB)-in energy balance is not understood. Therefore, 1α-OHB's utility as a stress biomarker in elasmobranch conservation physiology is equivocal. Here, we analyse the roles of corticosteroids, 1α-OHB and corticosterone, and metabolites, glucose and 3-hydroxybutyrate (3-HB), in response to stress in a protected tropical shark species, the blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melanopterus). Wild-caught neonates were exposed to ambient (27°C) or heatwave conditions (29°C) and subsequently a simulated fishing stressor (1 min air exposure). Blood samples were taken prior to temperature exposure, prior to air exposure, and 30 min, 1 h, 24 h, and 48 h post-Air exposure at treatment temperatures. Plasma 1α-OHB was elevated for 48 h in 27°C-exposed sharks but declined over time in 29°C-exposed sharks. Plasma 1α-OHB was not correlated with either metabolite. Plasma glucose was higher and plasma 3-HB was lower in 29°C-exposed sharks. In a separate experiment, blood samples were collected from both neonate and adult sharks immediately following capture and again 5 min later, and analysed for corticosteroids and metabolites. Plasma 1α-OHB increased in neonates within 5 min, but neonates displayed lower plasma 1α-OHB and higher glucose concentrations than adults. We conclude that 1α-OHB does not serve as a classic glucocorticoid role in C. melanopterus under these stressors. Furthermore, we show for the first time, ontogenetic differences in plasma 1α-OHB. Ultimately, our findings provide insights into hormonal control of energy mobilization during stress in C. melanopterus, particularly during simulated heatwave conditions, which seem to alter both endocrine and energy mobilization. Further work is needed to determine the utility of 1α-OHB as a biomarker for the mobilization of energy during a stress event in elasmobranchs.

Item ID: 70609
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2051-1434
Keywords: corticosteroid, elasmobranch, glucose, metabolite, stress
Copyright Information: © The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press and the Society for Experimental Biology. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC PDE150101266
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2022 23:34
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