General and histological indicators of health in wild fishes from a biological mercury hotspot in northeastern North America
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Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site, Nova Scotia, Canada, is considered a biological mercury (Hg) hotspot because the tissues of yellow perch (Perca flavescens) and common loons (Gavia immer) inhabiting the lakes frequently exceed so-called safe levels of Hg. In the present study, the relationships between Hg and overall health of males and females of 3 forage fish species (brown bullhead Ameirus nebulosus, banded killifish Fundulus diaphanus, and golden shiner Notemigonus crysoleucas; n = 6-18/sex/lake) in 6 lakes at the park were assessed using condition factor, liversomatic index (LSI), and macrophage aggregates (MAs; indicators of tissue damage). Mean muscle total Hg (THg) concentrations of brown bullhead, banded killifish, and golden shiner across lakes were 0.32 μg/g, 0.27 μg/g, and 0.34 μg/g, respectively. Condition was negatively related to muscle THg in golden shiner and banded killifish, LSI was not related to THg in any species, and all species showed evidence of increasing MA prevalence (counts and area) with increasing THg concentrations. The MAs were most prevalent in spleen tissues of golden shiner, with mean percentage cover ranging from 0.36% to 5.59% across lakes. In addition, the area of MAs appeared to be better predicted by THg concentration than was the number of MAs in the same tissue. These findings suggest that Hg is affecting the health of wild fishes in Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site and that other populations with similar or higher concentrations of this metal may also be at risk. Environ Toxicol Chem 2017;36:976-987. © 2016 SETAC.
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