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Fish scale-loss caused by simulated hydraulic shear stress

Dataset Overview

Riverine fishes found within streams impacted by hydropower also often pass through hydropower turbines during annual downstream migrations. During turbine passage events, fish may experience a suite of stressors including rapid pressure changes, impacts from turbine blades, and exposure to hydraulic shear. Scale-loss is often observed in fish collected below dams and hydraulic shear is the most likely cause of this trauma. While exposure to shear may cause other injuries, scale-loss appears to be the most common non-lethal injury observed to date. We sought to quantify how hydraulic shear may cause scale-loss in rainbow trout, gizzard shad, and hybrid striped bass by precisely controlling the exposure level (velocity) and duration (seconds) of a water jet. We targeted the same area for all three species found between the operculum and dorsal fin on the left, lateral surface. Exposure velocities ranged from 0 (controls) to 11.0 meters/second but fish were only exposed to the water jet for 1.5 seconds. A 0.2 milligram/milliliter solution of fluorescein was used to stain the areas of scale-loss by submerging each fish in this solution for at least 6 minutes. Fluorescein was used because it interacts with epithelial tissue that has been damaged and it fluoresces under ultraviolet lighting. Fish were photographed under short- and longwave ultraviolet lighting in a dark chamber to capture fluorescence. Fish photographs were analyzed using ImageJ and the proportion of descaled area was estimated for each fish within a 35 by 35-millimeter square. In general, these data highlight how exposure to hydraulic shear may lead to significant levels of descaling in riverine fishes.