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Respiratory System

Respiratory System Of Fish

Gills mediate the gas exchange in fish. These organs, located on the sides of the head, are made up of gill filaments, feathery structures that provide a large surface for gas exchange. The filaments are arranged in rows in the gill arches, and each filament has lamellae, discs that contain capillaries. Blood enters and leaves the gills through these small blood vessels. Although gills are restricted to a small section of the body, the immense respiratory surface created by the gill filaments provides the whole animal with an efficient gas exchange. The surrounding water keeps the gills wet.

A flap, the operculum, covers and protects the gills of bony fish. Water containing dissolved oxygen enters the fish's mouth, and the animal moves its jaws and operculum in such a way as to pump the incoming water through the gills. As water passes over the gill filaments, blood inside the capillaries picks up the dissolved oxygen. Since the blood in the capillaries flows in a direction opposite to the flow of water around the gill filaments, there is a good opportunity for absorption. The circulatory system then transports the oxygen to all body tissues and picks up carbon dioxide, which is removed from the body through the gills. After the water flows through the gills, it exits the body behind the fish's operculum.

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