The contribution of the swimbladder to buoyancy in the adult zebrafish (Danio rerio): a morphometric analysis

J Morphol. 2008 Jun;269(6):666-73. doi: 10.1002/jmor.10610.


Many teleost fishes use a swimbladder, a gas-filled organ in the coelomic cavity, to reduce body density toward neutral buoyancy, thus minimizing the locomotory cost of maintaining a constant depth in the water column. However, for most swimbladder-bearing teleosts, the contribution of this organ to the attainment of neutral buoyancy has not been quantified. Here, we examined the quantitative contribution of the swimbladder to buoyancy and three-dimensional stability in a small cyprinid, the zebrafish (Danio rerio). In aquaria during daylight hours, adult animals were observed at mean depths from 10.1 +/- 6.0 to 14.2 +/- 5.6 cm below the surface. Fish mass and whole-body volume were linearly correlated (r(2) = 0.96) over a wide range of body size (0.16-0.73 g); mean whole-body density was 1.01 +/- 0.09 g cm(-3). Stereological estimations of swimbladder volume from linear dimensions of lateral X-ray images and direct measurements of gas volumes recovered by puncture from the same swimbladders showed that results from these two methods were highly correlated (r(2) = 0.85). The geometric regularity of the swimbladder thus permitted its volume to be accurately estimated from a single lateral image. Mean body density in the absence of the swimbladder was 1.05 +/- 0.04 g cm(-3). The swimbladder occupied 5.1 +/- 1.4% of total body volume, thus reducing whole-body density significantly. The location of the centers of mass and buoyancy along rostro-caudal and dorso-ventral axes overlapped near the ductus communicans, a constriction between the anterior and posterior swimbladder chambers. Our work demonstrates that the swimbladder of the adult zebrafish contributes significantly to buoyancy and attitude stability. Furthermore, we describe and verify a stereological method for estimating swimbladder volume that will aid future studies of the functions of this organ.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Air Sacs / anatomy & histology*
  • Animals
  • Body Weights and Measures
  • Female
  • Male
  • Pressure
  • Swimming*
  • Zebrafish / anatomy & histology*
  • Zebrafish / physiology