Evaluation of an alternative to feeding whole frozen fish in belugas (Delphinapterus leucas)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Lisa M. Mazzaro, Julie P. Richmond, Jessica N. Morgan, Michaela E. Kluever, J. Lawrence Dunn, Tracy A. Romano, Steven A. Zinn, Elizabeth A. Koutsos
Zoo Biology
A Wiley Company, Inc., Wiley Subscription Services
, , , ,

Abstract Feeding fish to captive piscivores can be challenging owing to cost, availability, variability in nutrient, and caloric composition, as well as handling and storage concerns. This trial evaluated the response of three belugas to being fed Fish Analog, an alternative to frozen fish. Body condition, gut transit time, serum chemistry and metabolic hormone analytes, immune function, and behavioral motivation were the dependent variables. Belugas (n=3) were fed various levels of Fish Analog (0–50%) over a 6-month period, and follow-up studies were conducted to further examine several dependent variables. When provided in gradually increasing amounts, belugas consumed the Fish Analog, with only minor fecal consistency changes and without behavioral responses indicative of gastric discomfort. Axillary girth and blubber thickness were positively correlated, and did not differ significantly with changes in the percentage of Fish Analog fed. Individual animal variation in initial passage time, some serum chemistry analytes, and immune function differences were noted following feeding of Fish Analog. Feeding Fish Analog reduced blood n9 fatty acids compared with captive belugas fed no Fish Analog. Feeding a DHA-enriched Fish Analog increased several n3 fatty acids, including eicosapentaenoic acid, but not DHA, compared with whales fed no Fish Analog or non-DHA-enriched Fish Analog. Fish Analog was shown to be a viable alternative to feeding fish at up to 50% of the dietary caloric density. Zoo Biol 30:32–51, 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.


Back to Resources