Marine Biology

, Volume 152, Issue 4, pp 803–814 | Cite as

Effects of water viscosity upon ventilation and metabolism of a flatfish, the common sole Solea solea (L.)

  • Christine S. CouturierEmail author
  • Alice Rouault
  • David McKenzie
  • Robert Galois
  • Serge Robert
  • Lucette Joassard
  • Guy Claireaux
Research Article


The French Atlantic coast contains large highly productive intertidal mudflats that are colonised by juveniles of numerous flatfish species, including the common sole (Solea solea, L.). These ecosystems are also heavily exploited by the shellfish farming industry. Intensive bivalve culture is associated with substantial biodeposition (1–6 t-dw ha−1 day−1), which directly or indirectly contributes to increase exopolysaccharide (EPS) concentrations at the interface between water column and seabed. EPS are long-chain molecules organised into colloids, which influence rheological properties of water, particularly viscosity. Increased water viscosity had consequences for ventilatory activity of juvenile flatfish, whereby the minimal pressure required to ventilate the medium increases directly with EPS concentration. Moreover, the critical EPS concentration ([EPS]crit) at which water was no longer able to flow through the branchial basket ranged from almost nil to over 30 mg l−1, depending on species and size. [EPS]crit was lower in small individuals and individuals from species with high metabolic rates (turbot and plaice). These differences may depend upon gill and bucco-branchial cavity morphometrics. The ventilatory workload of sole increased with viscosity to a maximum at 2 mg EPS l−1. Viscosity might, therefore, be a limiting factor for flatfish post larvae, which colonise the intertidal mudflats, depending upon their size and species. EPS concentrations in the field can reach 15 mg l−1. A selective effect is conceivable but remains to be estimated in the field.


Extracellular Polymeric Substance mgO2 Standard Metabolic Rate Intertidal Mudflat Routine Metabolic Rate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


\( {\text{\ifmmode\expandafter\dot\else\expandafter\.\fi{M}O}}_{2} \)

Oxygen consumption in mgO2 per unit of time (h−1) and unit of mass (kg−1)

\( \ifmmode\expandafter\dot\else\expandafter\.\fi{\gamma } \)

Shear rate


Per cent


Celsius degree






Dry weight






Difference in water height


Initial difference in water height






Square kilometre















y, k

Parameters to estimate, k is the radius of curvature, y the asymptote value, i.e. yield stress


Difference in pressure





Authors would like to thank Y. Desaunay, J. Grison, G. Guillou and M. Bréret for their technical assistance, C.S.C. was the recipient of a Ph.D. fellowship from the Conseil Général de Charente Maritime. The financial support by the European Union, Directorate Fisheries, through contract QLRS-2002-00799, Project ETHOFISH, is also acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine S. Couturier
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alice Rouault
    • 1
  • David McKenzie
    • 2
  • Robert Galois
    • 1
  • Serge Robert
    • 1
  • Lucette Joassard
    • 1
  • Guy Claireaux
    • 2
  1. 1.CRELA (CNRS-IFREMER-Univ. La Rochelle)L’HoumeauFrance
  2. 2.ISEM (CNRS-Univ. Montpellier II), Station Méditerranéenne de l’Environnement LittoralSeteFrance

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