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

Egg and larval fish that drift downstream are likely to encounter river infrastructure and consequently rapid decompression, which may result in significant injury. In juvenile fish, pressure-related injury (or barotrauma) occurs when pressures fall sufficiently below the pressure at which the fish has acclimated. Because eggs and larvae are less-developed and more fragile than juveniles, there is a presumption that they may be at least as, if not more, susceptible to barotrauma injury, 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 detrimental levels 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 atmospheric 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 hours, but subsequent mortality cannot be excluded. Consequently, if larval drift is expected, it seems prudent to maintain exposuremore » pressures at river infrastructure at 40% or more of the pressure to which a drifting larvae has acclimated.« less
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Journal Article
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Journal Name: Biology Open, 5(6):786-793
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States
Physoclistous; Murray-Darling Basin; hydropower; larval drift; break-point analysis