Effects of Triclosan and Triclocarban, Two Ubiquitous Environmental Contaminants, on Anatomy, Physiology, and Behavior of the Fathead Minnow (Pimephales promelas)

  • Melissa M. Schultz
  • Stephen E. Bartell
  • Heiko L. SchoenfussEmail author


Triclosan (TCS) and triclocarban (TCC) are two common antimicrobial agents found in many personal care products and subsequently are detected ubiquitously in wastewater effluent and receiving waters. Both compounds are of recent regulatory interest due to their omnipresence in the environment, including in humans. Although TCS and TCC have been suggested to be endocrine active, little information exists about their effects on organismal end points in development (growth, escape performance), anatomy (morphological indices, histology), physiology (vitellogenin), and behavior of exposed aquatic organisms. In this study, newly hatched fathead minnows were exposed for 12 days, and mature male and female fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) were exposed for 21 days to environmentally realistic concentrations (nanograms per liter) of these two compounds singularly and in mixtures. At the end of the exposure, larvae were assessed for growth and predator-avoidance performance, and a subset of mature fish was assessed for plasma vitellogenin induction, expression of secondary sexual characteristics, relative size of liver and gonads, and histopathological changes to both organs. The remaining exposed mature fish were placed in breeding pairs of one male and one female minnow from the same treatment to assess their ability to defend a nest site and reproduce. Exposure to either antimicrobial compound, alone or as a mixture, caused no changes to larval fish, gonad size, or vitellogenin concentrations in mature fathead minnows. In contrast, decreased aggression was seen in adult male fathead minnows exposed to TCC (1.6 μg/l) or a mixture (560 ng/l TCS + 179 ng/l TCC and 1.6 μg/l TCS + 450 ng/l TCC). Decreased aggression would likely decrease their ability to defend and hold a nest site needed for spawning and reproduction. Substantial variability was found in the severity of observed effects within treatments, suggesting that environmentally realistic concentrations of these compounds may only affect particularly sensitive individuals.


Triclosan Fathead Minnow Female Fish Male Fish Nest Defense 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation (CHE-0821110). Additional support was provided through the Henry Luce III Fund for Distinguished Scholarship and the Sophomore Research program, which are both awarded through the College of Wooster. The authors also want to thank Madigan Murphy for laboratory assistance.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1715 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melissa M. Schultz
    • 1
  • Stephen E. Bartell
    • 2
    • 3
  • Heiko L. Schoenfuss
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of ChemistryThe College of WoosterWoosterUSA
  2. 2.Aquatic Toxicology LaboratorySt. Cloud State UniversitySt. CloudUSA
  3. 3.Normandale Community CollegeBloomingtonUSA

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