Associations Between Female Reproductive Traits and Polychlorinated Biphenyl Sediment Concentrations in Wild Populations of Brown Bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus)

  • Michelle Farwell
  • Ken G. Drouillard
  • Daniel D. Heath
  • Trevor E. Pitcher


Aquatic contaminants, specifically polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a class of persistent organic contaminants, have been associated with sublethal effects on reproduction in fishes. Female brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus) were used to assess variation in reproductive traits across eight populations differing in sediment sum PCB concentrations in the Lower Great Lakes region. Differences in maternal carotenoid allocation patterns among these populations were also examined. No significant associations were found between sediment sum PCB concentrations corrected for organic content (OC) and reproductive traits. However, egg diameter was negatively correlated with sediment PCB concentrations not corrected for OC, suggesting that observed relationships between sediment sum PCB concentrations and reproductive traits are driven by classes of environmental contaminants whose bioavailability are not predicted by OC, such as metals. An unexpected positive relationship was also found between egg carotenoid concentrations and sediment PCB concentrations. This positive relationship was explained by the maternal allocation of carotenoids based on a negative correlation between female muscle and egg carotenoid concentrations, where females from less contaminated locations had lower egg and greater muscle carotenoid concentrations than those from more contaminated locations. The results of this study identify sublethal effects of environmental contaminants on reproductive life-history traits in female brown bullhead, and investigations of adaptive mechanisms underlying this variation are warranted.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michelle Farwell
    • 1
  • Ken G. Drouillard
    • 1
    • 2
  • Daniel D. Heath
    • 1
    • 2
  • Trevor E. Pitcher
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of WindsorWindsorCanada
  2. 2.Great Lakes Institute for Environmental ResearchUniversity of WindsorWindsorCanada

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