Habitat use, urea production and spawning in the gulf toadfish Opsanus beta

John F. Barimo, Joseph E. Serafy, Peter E. Frezza, Patrick J. Walsh

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19 Scopus citations


Field studies were conducted in Johnson Key Basin, Florida Bay, USA from September 2002 through September 2004 to examine physiological, ecological, and behavioral characteristics of the gulf toadfish, Opsanus beta (Goode and Bean in Proc US Natl Mes 3:333-345, 1880), in relation to nitrogen metabolism, habitat usage, and spawning. Fish collected 5 cm above sediments in experimental shelters (epibenthic) were compared with those collected by throw traps which were found on or burrowing within sediments. The relationship between microhabitat ammonia and urea excretion, as determined by the enzymatic activity of glutamine synthetase (GS), was examined. The hypothesis tested was that O. beta occupying epibenthic nests were less ureotelic with lower GS activities than non-nesting individuals on/in sediments, due to a decreased environmental ammonia burden. Porewater total ammonia (T Amm) concentrations at a sediment depth of 5 cm, i.e., the approximate depth of burrowing toadfish, ranged from 0 to 106.5 μmol N l-1 while the pH ranged from 7.48 to 9.14. There was a weak but significant correlation between environmental ammonia (NH3) concentration and hepatic GS activity for epibenthic toadfish (P < 0.001, r 2 = 0.10), but not for burrowing toadfish. Mean urea-N and T Amm concentrations within shelters occupied by toadfish (n = 281) were 9.8 ± 0.83 μmol N l-1 and 13.0 ± 0.7 μmol N l-1, respectively. As predicted, hepatic GS activity was significantly lower in epibenthic toadfish captured in shelters (4.40 ± 0.24 μmol min-1 g-1; n = 281) as compared to individuals on/in sediments (6.61 ± 0.47 μmol min -1 g-1; n = 128). Glutamine synthetase activity generally peaked in March (spawning season) and was lowest in July. Gender differences in hepatic and branchial GS activity were also found during the spawning season, which is attributable to the fact that males brood and guard offspring in their epibenthic nests while females often rest on or burrow into the sediments. Finally, hepatic and branchial GS appeared to have different patterns of enzymatic activity suggesting functional differences in gene expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)497-508
Number of pages12
JournalMarine Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Aquatic Science


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