We investigated the effect of two different sizes of surgically implanted transmitters on the buoyancy compensation of juvenile chinook salmon Oncorhynchus tshawytscha. We determined buoyancy by measuring the density of fish with a filled air bladder in graded salinity baths. In addition, we examined the effect of pressure changes on buoyancy by measuring the pressure reduction (PR) at which fish became neutrally buoyant. We found no significant difference between the density of control and tagged groups, indicating that fish were able to compensate for the transmitter by filling their air bladders. However, both groups of tagged fish had significantly lower PR than control fish. Regression analysis of fish density on PR indicated that density of the tagged groups changed at a higher rate than that of the controls. As a result, tagged fish attained neutral buoyancy with less pressure reduction even though the tagged and control groups exhibited similar densities. This relation was confirmed by using Boyle's law to simulate buoyancy changes with change in depth. Although fish compensated for the transmitter, changes in depth affected the buoyancy of tagged fish more than that of untagged fish. Reduced buoyancy at depth may affect the behavior and physiology of tagged juvenile salmonids, and researchers should be aware of this potential bias in telemetry data. In addition, there was little difference in PR or the slope of the density - PR regression lines between tagged groups. This was caused by the small difference in excess mass (i.e., weight in water) of the two transmitters. Thus, although two transmitters may not weigh the same, their effects on buoyancy may be similar depending on the excess mass.
Additional publication details
Buoyancy compensation of juvenile chinook salmon implanted with two different size dummy transmitters