The land-based culture of greenlip abalone Haliotis laevigata in southeastern Australia is carried out using seawater that is prone to seasonal temperature fluctuations and is done almost exclusively using artificial feeds. Although some nutrition research has been done to identify the optimum dietary protein level, typically farms use only 1 diet for grow-out after the juveniles are weaned. Little consideration has been given to the effects of fluctuating water temperatures and dietary protein levels on the morphology of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) of abalone. Because these factors are known to impact growth in other aquatic species, it is important that they are investigated further to improve growth in abalone species. In this study, the histological changes of the GIT of greenlip abalone in response to 2 water temperatures and 4 dietary levels of crude protein (juvenile, 27% and 36%; subadult, 24% and 33%) for juveniles (1.75 g) and subadults (22.93 g) were investigated. The epithelial thickness of the stomach and crop; intestinal villus height, width, and area; lamina propria height; and stomach, crop, and intestinal neutral and acidic goblet cell numbers were measured. The stomach epithelium was significantly thicker at 14°C than 22°C in both juveniles and subadults, whereas the crop epithelium was significantly thicker at 22°C than 14°C in juveniles. The crop epithelial thickness of subadults was reduced by increasing dietary protein; however, juveniles did not show the same response. Juvenile abalone were more sensitive to temperature fluctuations than subadults, whereas significant effects of dietary protein levels were only observed in subadults. The alterations in the morphology of the GIT did not appear to be detrimental to the health and growth of the abalone. Further research is required to investigate the interactive effects of water temperature and dietary ingredients, particularly in regard to antinutritional factors, on the morphology and function of the GIT to improve our understanding of abalone physiology.
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Vol. 32 • No. 1