To assess the rate of disappearance of gas bubble trauma (GBT) signs in juvenile salmonids, we exposed spring chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha and steelhead O. mykiss to water containing high levels of dissolved gas supersaturation (DGS) for a time period sufficient to induce signs of GBT, reduced the DGS to minimal levels, and then sampled fish through time to document changes in severity of GBT. Because of the tendency of GBT signs to dissipate at different rates, we conducted trials focusing on emboli (bubbles) in the gill filaments and lateral line and separate trials that focused on bubbles in the external surfaces (fins, eyes, and opercula). Bubbles in gill filaments dissipated almost completely within 2 h after transfer of fish to water of nearly normal DGS (104%), whereas bubbles in the lateral line dissipated to negligible levels within 5 h. Bubbles on external surfaces were more persistent through time than they were in gill filaments and the lateral line. Although typically dissipating to low levels within 48 h, external bubbles sometimes remained for 4 d. Assuming a direct relation exists between easily observable signs and direct mortality, our results suggest that fish can recover quickly from the potentially lethal effects of DGS once they move from water with high DGS to water of almost normal gas saturation. These results should be of fundamental importance to fishery managers interpreting the results of monitoring for the severity and prevalence of GBT in juvenile salmonids in the Columbia River system and perhaps elsewhere.
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