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Some functions of the swimbladder and its ducts in Atlantic and Pacific herring Brawn, Vivien Mavis

Abstract

The swimbladder of Atlantic and Pacific herring has a pneumatic duct arising from the stomach caecum and a direct posterior opening to the exterior. The thesis is advanced that these peculiarities are associated with differences in function which may be related to the life of the herring. Herring obtain swimbladder gas by swallowing air at the surface but not by secretion or bacterial gas generation over one week. Gas release from the swimbladder through the posterior duct occurs in response to pressure reduction, sympathomimetic drugs and atropine and is inhibited by spinal section or brain removal suggesting a gas release mechanism involving the central nervous system. Gas loss through the pneumatic duct is prevented by the swimbladder valve which opens in response to adrenalin. The swimbladder responds to adrenalin by moving its contained gas anteriorly and to pilocarpine by increasing internal gas pressure. The pneumatic duct, normally fluid filled, controls the applied pressure at which gas flow in either direction starts and finishes. This duct mechanically prevents the entry of particulate matter from the stomach and is able to remove air bubbles leaving a mean net force of 3.2 dynes/ml downwards to be compensated for by movements of the fish. As the herring swimbladder functions as a hydrostatic organ the low skeletal body content and high fat content results in a low swimbladder volume, so reducing the change in density with depth, an advantage to a fish undergoing diurnal vertical migrations. It was calculated that herring of Passamaquoddy Bay, N.B. can descend to their median daytime depth of 10 metres in August and 35 metres in February for sinking factors of 1016 and 1018 respectively. Predation may be reduced by the ability of herring to complete air uptake rapidly, to move upward without restriction by expelling any excess gas through the posterior duct and to liberate gas in times of stress in response to adrenaline so increasing body density and permitting rapid downward movement. Thus in many ways the herring because of its anatomical modifications has been able to adapt the physostome condition successfully to its marine environment.

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