Physiological consequences of an altered flow regime on Alabama bass (Micropterus henshalli)
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There are numerous studies on the effects of dams on aquatic biota, yet relatively little is known about whether hydropeaking activities cause physiological change in fish. Using Alabama bass (Micropterus henshalli) as a model, we evaluated whether hydropeaking in a regulated river altered glucocorticoid stress responsiveness relative to fish from an unregulated tributary. Blood samples were collected at the time of capture (baseline) and then collected again after a 1-hr period of confinement (response). Leukocyte profiles (blood smears) were created and plasma was extracted to assess plasma cortisol levels and neutrophils and lymphocyte (N:L) ratios, between sites and times to evaluate differences between sites and the two sampling periods. Baseline cortisol levels were higher in fish collected from the regulated river compared to those from unregulated site, but response levels of cortisol were similar between sites. Baseline and response level N:L ratios did not differ between sites. High baseline levels of cortisol suggested that fish exposed to regulated flows expressed an altered stress response and were likely in an allostatic state, i.e., attempting to acclimate. Further research is needed to understand how altered stress responses due to hydropeaking flows may be affecting fish.