Friday, August 26, 2011

Guest blogging from Montreal: A wolffish!

New England Aquarium researchers are reporting from the Biodôme in Montréal, Quebec, where they are conducting an experiment on the stress physiology of two species of wolffish.

Bonjour, my name is Blueberry and I am a spotted wolffish, and also a guest blogger today!

I live at the Biodôme in Montreal in a tank with four of my closest friends and conspecifics. I'm 65 cm long and weigh about 2.5 kg, and I am olive green with handsome black spots running down my sides. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I have been told on several occasions that I am a very good looking fish.

Check out how pretty I am!

My friends call me Blueberry because of the color of my eyes. I've never actually tasted a blueberry before but if one fell into my tank, I'd probably eat it. In the Biodôme, I generally get to eat capelin, squid and shrimp, but sometimes I have a craving for the crunchy sea urchins and rock crabs that wolffish in the wild also eat. My favorite movies are Finding Nemo and Deep Blue Sea, and in my free time I enjoy playfully biting the fins of my tankmates and playing water polo.

Wolffish like me are native to the deep cool waters of the North Atlantic where we spend much of our time in small caves and rocky outcrops. Though wolffish are generally described as slow moving, I like to think of myself more as easy going. All of my neighbors and I were collected as egg masses in the wild and raised in a laboratory in northern Canada, and then we moved to the Biodôme at the beginning of the summer.

Here is a picture of my tank in the Biodôme and the three neighboring tanks. Mine is the one on the bottom left.

I look forward to the visits by my friends from the New England Aquarium. I'm helping them to study the physiological effects of stress on wolffish. The pay's not good but the benefits are great, particularly the free food and housing. When the researchers Emily, Alena, and Hope come to visit, they take us out of our tank one by one and put us in an anesthetic bath which makes us super sleepy. Then, they take a sample of our blood, and put us in a recovery bath. The whole process usually takes about 15 minutes and is relatively painless.

After the researchers' first visit, they put little houses in our tank for us to relax in. Some of our neighboring tanks did not get houses because the researchers are trying to determine if access to shelter decreases our stress levels. We can’t tell the researchers how stressed we are feeling because silly humans don’t speak our language, so they take samples of our blood to measure cortisol, a hormone that many organisms (including humans) produce when under stress. The absence of houses in our tanks over the course of this experiment is meant to simulate long term, or chronic stress.

During one visit by the researchers, they also wanted to expose us to short term, or acute stress, by perturbing us underwater and then exposing us to air briefly. It was definitely uncomfortable but we are all willing to help out the researchers however we can. For more information on the experiment itself, check out our other blogs on blood processing and the differences between two types of wolffish in this post and this post.

Here on the is a picture of Alena taking a sample of my blood.

This is a picture of my tankmates and I in the recovery bath.

Some of my Atlantic wolffish neighbors from the tank next door are moving to the New England Aquarium to join a few of our cousins already on display there in the Northern Waters Gallery. Feel free to stop by any time to say Bonjour!

Au revoir for now!

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