Laterally compressed panfishes are small and have limited intraperitoneal space; thus, they may suffer adversely from surgically implanted transmitters even if the transmitter meets the generally recommended ratio of transmitter weight to fish weight of 2%. We studied the effects of intraperitoneal transmitters (2.81 g) on survival, growth, healing, and health of bluegills Lepomis macrochirus (mean weight 133 g) held for 8 weeks at 6 degree C and 20 degree C. Radio-tagged bluegills at 20 degree C had a mortality rate of 10% and tag loss rate of 15%. At 6 degree C, bluegills had no mortality or tag loss. Radio-tagged and reference fish fed in both 20 degree C raceways; however, a few reference fish appeared dominant at feeding time. This dominance by a few reference fish was also indicated by a large weight gain for three reference fish in each 20 degree C raceway. At 6 degree C, neither reference fish nor radio-tagged fish fed activity. Radio-tagged fish held at 20 degree C exhibited pelvic fin erosion, erythema and necrosis at the antenna exit and at suture insertions, and lost or loose sutures, effects not observed in other test fishes. Examination of fish held at 20 degree C also showed enclosure of the transmitters in a fibrous capsule and adhesion of visceral organs. Epithelialization over the incision occurred in radio-tagged bluegills at both temperatures, but there was little further healing at 6 degree C. At 20 degree C, tissue responses included chronic inflammation and dermal granulation. Radio-tagged fish did not appear to be more susceptible than reference fish to bacterial infection. Mortality, adverse morphological effects, altered behavior, and limited healing in bluegills suggest that implanted transmitters impaired their health. Thus, movement and habitat use data collected by telemetry for this species and perhaps for other panfishes should be interpreted with caution.
Additional publication details
Effects of implanted transmitters on adult bluegills at two temperatures