The Effect of Bioaccumulated Selenium on Mortalities and Deformities in the Eggs, Larvae, and Fry of a Wild Population of Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarki lewisi)

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Abstract

To determine if elevated concentrations of waterborne selenium (Se), caused by coal mining, in the Elk River in southeastern British Columbia, may be causing reproductive or teratogenic effects in wild cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki lewisi), fertilized eggs from exposed and reference fish were raised in the laboratory. Eggs from each female were reared separately and the percent mortalities and deformities were related to the selenium content of the eggs. Selenium concentrations in females from the exposed site were highest in the liver (36.6 ± 22.5 μg/g dry weight, range: 18.3 to 114), followed by the eggs (21.0 ± 18.3 μg/g, range: 8.7 to 81.3) and the muscle (12.5 ± 7.7 μg/g, range: 6.7 to 41). Despite these elevated egg Se concentrations, there was no significant effect on fertilization; time to hatch; percent hatch; or egg, larvae, and fry deformities or mortalities. Reproductive failure and embryonic terata have been reported at much lower egg Se concentrations in other fish species. The lack of any toxic response in this study may be due to an evolved tolerance to higher tissue Se concentrations in a population of fish living in a seleniferous river system.

Received: 16 August 1999/Accepted: 28 December 1999