Metaplasia in swim bladder epithelium of the endangered annual fish Austrolebias nigrofasciatus (Cyprinodontiformes: Rivulidae) results in inadequate swimming and delayed growth

ABSTRACT Laboratory breeding of annual fish is often impaired when fish fail to inflate the swim bladder after hatching. These fish, which are known as belly-sliders, cannot swim in the water column, moving mainly on the bottom of water. Therefore, we wanted to understand the factors underlying failed inflation of swim bladder in the annual fish Austrolebias nigrofasciatus and determine the implications of this condition on the growth of juveniles. To identify how the initial filling of the gaseous vesicle is compromised, and to determine the implications of this condition on juvenile growth, we analysed the histology of the swim bladder of both normal swimming fish and belly-sliders during their initial growth phase (first month of life). In addition to slower growth rate compared with fish swimming normally, we found that belly-sliders have metaplasia characterized by epithelium peeling of the swim bladder and the presence of haemorrhage. Based on our findings, it can be concluded that metaplasia of the swim bladder is recurrent in annual fish bred in the laboratory, which explains the large number of unviable larvae. However, its causes remain unknown.