Altered performance of white sucker populations in the manitouwadge chain of lakes is associated with changes in benthic macroinvertebrate communities as a result of copper and zinc contamination
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White sucker (Catostomus commersoni) collected from the Manitouwadge chain of lakes show a lower growth rate and fecundity in lakes contaminated with copper and zinc from a mixed metal mine. This study evaluated whether the changes in performance of the fish were related to direct impacts of the metals or indirect impacts associated with changes in food availability. Concentrations of metals in the water and sediment of lakes in the Manitouwadge chain were elevated, relative to reference sites. The concentrations of Cu and Zn in the digesta of white sucker were significantly higher, as were the levels of both Cu and Zn in liver, kidney, and gill tissue. Muscle and spleen levels of Cu and Zn were significantly lower or not different from controls. Tissue levels were within the homeostatic range for Cu and Zn. However, the total density of invertebrates varied from greater than 25,000 m-2 at control sites to less than 13,000 m-2 at contaminated sites, and the number of genera recorded was more than 50% lower in shallow water samples. There was almost a complete absence of several invertebrate taxa at contaminated sites, including Plecoptera, Ephemeroptera, Odonata, Trichoptera, Amphipoda, and Unionidae. Diptera accounted for 78 to 96% of the total numbers of individuals at metal-contaminated sites as compared with 40 to 75% at the control sites. An analysis of white sucker stomach contents showed that the contents closely reflected the benthic composition observed in the natural substrate. Changes in food availability and feeding activity were correlated with previous changes documented in the growth, fecundity, and lipid levels of white sucker.
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