Upward-facing echosounders that provided continuous, long-term measurements were applied to address the surfacing behavior and gas release of the physostome sprat (Sprattus sprattus) throughout an entire winter in a 150-m-deep Norwegian fjord. During ice-free conditions, the sprat surfaced and released gas bubbles at night with an estimated surfacing rate of 3.5 times per fish day-1. The vertical swimming speeds during surfacing were considerably higher (~10 times) than during diel vertical migrations, especially when returning from the surface, and particularly when the fjord was not ice covered. The sprat released gas a few hours after surfacing, suggesting that the sprat gulped atmospheric air during its excursions to the surface. While the surface activity increased after the fjord became ice covered, the records of gas release decreased sharply. The under-ice fish then displayed a behavior interpreted as "searching for the surface" by repeatedly ascending toward the ice, apparently with limited success of filling the swim bladder. This interpretation was supported by lower acoustic target strength in ice-covered waters. The frequent surfacing behavior demonstrated in this study indicates that gulping of atmospheric air is an important element in the life of sprat. While at least part of the population endured overwintering in the ice-covered habitat, ice covering may constrain those physostome fishes that lack a gas-generating gland in ways that remain to be established. 2013 The Author(s).
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Aquatic Science