How low can they go when going with the flow? Tolerance of egg and larval fishes to rapid decompression

Craig A. Boys, Wayne Robinson, Brett Miller, Brett Pflugrath, Lee J. Baumgartner, Anna Navarro Cuenca, Richard Brown, Zhiqun Deng

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    26 Citations (Scopus)
    36 Downloads (Pure)


    Egg and larval fish that drift downstream are likely to encounter river infrastructure and consequently rapid decompression, which may result in significant injury. Pressure-related injury (or barotrauma) has been shown in juvenile fishes when pressure falls sufficiently below that at which the fish has acclimated. There is a presumption that eggs and larvae may be at least as, if not more, susceptible to barotrauma injury because they are far less-developed and more fragile than juveniles, but studies to date report inconsistent results and none have considered the relationship between pressure change and barotrauma over a sufficiently broad range of pressure changes to enable tolerances to be properly determined. To address this, we exposed eggs and larvae of three physoclistic species to rapid decompression in a barometric chamber over a broad range of discrete pressure changes. Eggs, but not larvae, were unaffected by all levels of decompression tested. At exposure pressures below ?40 kPa, or ?40% of surface pressure, swim bladder deflation occurred in all species and internal haemorrhage was observed in one species. None of these injuries killed the fish within 24 h, but subsequent mortality cannot be excluded. Consequently, if larval drift is expected where river infrastructure is present, adopting design or operational features which maintain exposure pressures at 40% or more of the pressure to which drifting larvae are acclimated may afford greater protection for resident fishes.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)786-793
    Number of pages8
    JournalBiology Open
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2016


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