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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Gas bubble trauma in fish Fidler, Larry E.


Fish exposed to gas supersaturated water often experience a form of stress known as Gas Bubble Trauma (GBT). GBT is an acute condition involving various forms of bubble growth both internal and external to the animal. Theoretical models are developed which establish thresholds for bubble growth. These models apply to: 1. ) Bubble growth in the vascular systems of fish. 2. ) Bubble growth in the environmental water that can occur in the buccal cavity and between gill lamella. 4.) Overinflation of the swimbladder. 3. ) Sub-dermal bubbles that occur on external skin surfaces such as the opercular flaps, between fin rays and in the lining of the mouth. In order to develop the models for general use, it was necessary to establish the effective size of nucleation sites and other physiological parameters contained in the bubble growth threshold equations. This was accomplished through a review of data from the scientific literature and a two phase experimental program. The literature review resulted in the compilation of a database containing over 1000 records of supersaturation data on salmonids. Various filters based on length, species, total gas pressure (TGP), partial pressure of oxygen (PO₂) and other criteria were applied to the database. The filtering operations established the existence of GBT mortality thresholds and identified relationships between other experimental parameters. The results of this analysis suggest that a lower threshold occurs at a water TGP of 1.10 Atms. and a higher threshold occurs at 1.15 to 1.18 Atms. However, it was not established that the apparent mortality thresholds correspond to thresholds for bubble growth predicted by the theoretical models. To make this correlation, a preliminary experimental study examined the physiological response of fish exposed to supersaturated water. It was found that arterial PO₂, hematocrit and blood pressure yield unique responses to bubble growth over specific ranges of water TGP. The results of these experiments also indicate that the lower mortality threshold of the database analyses is associated with a combination of sub-dermal bubble growth in the mouth and extracorporeal bubbles growing between gill lamella. The second phase of experimental study included surveys of blood PO₂, hematocrit and pH along with microscopic studies of intravascular and extracorporeal bubble growth in gills. The results of these experiments confirm the source of mortality for the lower threshold at a water TGP of 1.1 Atms. In addition, the data demonstrate that the upper TGP threshold of 1.15 to 1.18 Atms. of the database analysis corresponds to the threshold for intravascular bubble growth. The results further confirm that, as predicted by the theoretical model, intravascular bubble growth thresholds are dependent on water PO₂ . Combining the results of the database analysis and the experimental studies permitted the effective size of nucleation sites responsible for bubble growth to be back calculated from the theoretical equations. This completed the development of the bubble growth threshold equations. The equations can now be used to predict thresholds for the various forms of bubble growth and mortality that occur in fish exposed to supersaturated water. The experimental results also provide valuable information regarding the physiological response of fish to gas supersaturated water.

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