Application of anaesthetics for sex identification and bioactive compound recovery from wild Dicathais orbita

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Noble, WJ, Cocks, RR, Harris, JO & Benkendorff, K 2009, 'Application of anaesthetics for sex identification and bioactive compound recovery from wild Dicathais orbita', Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, vol. 380, no. 1/2, pp. 53-60.

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Anaesthetics are used extensively on marine molluscs for non-destructive sampling and to manipulate specimens in ecological studies and aquaculture. Dicathais orbita is an edible southern Australian muricid (Neogastropoda) with potential for use as an indicator species for ecological monitoring and new species development in aquaculture. This species produces bioactive compounds that are currently under investigation for the development of a novel anticancer therapy. No previous studies have investigated the use of anaesthetics to collect bioactive compounds. Thus, a suite of anaesthetics was trialled for their efficacy in relaxing D. orbita out of the shell to identify sex and for stimulating bioactive compound production. The recovery time significantly varied between the different anaesthetic applications (P < 0.001). Magnesium chloride proved most effective in relaxing specimens enough to identify sex and recovery time did not differ from the seawater control (P > 0.05). This method was successfully applied to field populations of D. orbita in order to establish a 1:1 sex ratio at 6 sites in South Australia. No evidence of imposex was observed at any location. Benzocaine and the carrier solvent ethanol were less effective for identifying sex, but stimulated expulsion of the bioactive precursors. This indicates that ethanol may be inducing a stress response in these gastropods rather than a standard anaesthetisation. Consequently, the most suitable anaesthetic for use on gastropods will depend on the specific use and requires testing for species specific responses.

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