Ionic homeostasis is an essential component of functioning cells, and ionic stress imposed by excessive salinity can disrupt cellular and physiological processes. Therefore, increasing salinity of aquatic environments—a consequence of global climate change—has the potential to adversely affect the health of aquatic animals and their ecosystems. The ability to respond adaptively to adverse environmental changes is essential for the survival of species, but animals in early embryonic stages may be particularly vulnerable, as they cannot easily escape from such conditions. Herein, the effects of increasing salinity on the mortality and hatching time of zebrafish (Danio rerio
) embryos were investigated. Increasing salinity significantly affected mortality after 24 h of exposure beginning from <2 h post-fertilisation, with 10 parts per thousand (ppt) inducing complete lethality. The 24-h LC50 of NaCl to embryos was estimated to be approximately 5.6 ppt. Interestingly, 5 ppt, a test concentration only slightly lower than the LC50, induced earlier hatching than at lower concentrations. This earlier hatching was also observed even when exposure was commenced at later stages of embryogenesis, despite later-stage embryos not suffering appreciable mortality in response to salinity. The results suggest that earlier hatching is a plastic response which may function to enable embryos to evade unfavourable conditions.
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