It is generally accepted that plasma bicarbonate is the major source of carbon dioxide excreted in the gills of teleost fish (Perry, 1986). Although anion exchange across the membrane of rainbow trout erythrocytes is rapid, with a half-time of 0.8 s for chloride equilibration at 15 °C (Romano and Passow, 1984), the rate of bicarbonate influx into the erythrocytes limits the rate of conversion of plasma bicarbonate to carbon dioxide and, thereby, carbon dioxide excretion per unit volume of blood in gills, because the residence time of blood in the secondary lamellae of the gills is only 1–6 s (Hughes et al. 1981; Bhargava et al. 1992). Thus, factors that reduce the net rate of bicarbonate influx through the anion exchanger may reduce the efficiency of carbon dioxide excretion in gills. The effect is, however, temporary. If carbon dioxide production remains constant, the reduction of carbon dioxide excretion will increase the venous carbon dioxide tension and content, thus increasing the diffusion gradient across the gills and speeding up CO2 removal until the CO2 excretion again matches production.

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