Study: Heavy Sediment Runoff Damages Shark and Fish Gills

posted: 06/17/15
by: SharkWeek.com Staff
Blacktip reef sharks swim together in ocean. Carcharhinus melanopterus. Rangiroa, French Polynesia.
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Blacktip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus) swim together in Rangiroa, French Polynesia.
Jeff Foott/DCL

It's getting a lot harder for baby sharks and other fish to breathe, according to a new study from James Cooke University.

Researchers simulated sediment conditions on inshore coral reefs, finding that increasing amounts of particulate matter are finding their way to into fish gills, the small respiratory organs that extract dissolved oxygen from water. Much of the sediment runs off from agriculture activity and industrial development that takes place near the shoreline.

Following exposure to large amounts of sediment, it becomes increasingly difficult for fish to breathe through their damage gills.

"The gills in sediment-exposed larval clownfish fish were congested, exhibiting twice as much mucous of what could be found in clean-water exposed fish," explains study lead author Sybille Hess.

Research indicates that the sediment could be responsible for higher incidences of disease in fish, also:

"The presence of bacteria linked to fish disease on the gills of sediment-exposed fish suggests that exposure to, and accumulation of sediment, may trigger the development of fish diseases," adds study co-author Dr Tracy Ainsworth.

Click here for more information from James Cooke University

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