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Mercury, selenium, and fatty acids in the axial muscle of largemouth bass: evaluating the influence of seasonal and sexual changes in fish condition and reproductive status

Abstract

Largemouth bass (LMB, 265–475 mm) were collected to document whether changes in fish condition and reproductive status influenced the concentration of total mercury (Hg) and selenium (Se) in axial muscle by season and sex. The fatty acid (FA) composition of fish was also examined to describe seasonal and sexual differences and identify whether arachidonic acid (ARA) could be used as a biomarker of Hg toxicity. There was a trend for females to have lower (p < 0.062) Se concentrations than males. The concentration of Se for females during spring (mean ± SD, 686 ± 51 ng/g dw) was 15% lower than males (806 ± 67 ng/g dw). Lower Se concentrations in females than males continued through summer and fall. Concentration of Hg for females during spring (152 ± 39 ng/g ww) was also 59% lower than males (373 ± 303 ng/g ww), but the difference was not significant (p > 0.2). The percent of lipids was greatest in fall and winter (3%) and comprised primarily of omega-3 fatty acids (35 g/100 g lipid). Fish condition as measured by percent lipids and relative weight was negatively (p < 0.02) related to Hg concentration for females and males. Lipid content for both sexes was also positively (p < 0.05) related to the Se:Hg ratio. Relative weight was positively related to the Se:Hg ratio for females during all seasons (p = 0.014), but only during spring and summer for males (p < 0.007). A low Se:Hg value was associated with an elevation in ARA for both sexes and a reduced hepatosomatic index in males. Data suggested that females transferred muscle stores of Se and Hg to developing oocytes during spring. This study generates hypotheses regarding the physiological drivers of seasonal and sexual variability in Hg, Se, and FA in LMB that may be applicable to other species and have implications for fisheries health and management.

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Data are available by contacting the corresponding author.

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Acknowledgements

The authors appreciate the comments and suggestions from 5 anonymous reviewers. Their contributions greatly helped to improve and provide focus for this manuscript. We also thank James Baker, Morgann Clinton, Steffanie Abel, William Schriener, and other Missouri Department of Conservation staff that assisted in collection, dissection, aging, and data recording of fish; and the members of the MU Limnology lab (Jaylen Bragg, Kyra Florea, Josh Hagerty, Josh Horne, Matt Sauer, Meghan Schrik, Claire Vanderwerken, and Kiah Wright) who assisted in the collection of water quality data.

Author contributions

Conceptualization (KKK); Data curation (KKK, EC, JAC–G); Formal analyses (KKK, EC, JAC–G); Funding acquisition (KKK, RO’H, DN, AA, RN, JW); Methodology (KKK, RO’H, DN, AA, RN); Project administration (KKK); Resources (KKK, RO’H, DN, AA, RN, JDB); Visualization (KKK); Writing—original draft preparation (KKK, EC), Writing—review and editing (JAC–G, RO’H, DN, JDB, AA, RN, JW).

Funding

Laboratory analyses and state governmental staff support was funded by the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Support for EC provided through the MDC Summer Internship program. Support for JCG was provided by the U.S. Geological Survey under Grant/Cooperative Agreement No. G16AP00066. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. Geological Survey. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Geological Survey. This manuscript is submitted for publication with the understanding that the United States Government is authorized to reproduce and distribute reprints for Governmental purposes. Support for AA was provided by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture McIntire–Stennis Project 1016163.

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Knott, K.K., Coleman, E., Cianci–Gaskill, J.A. et al. Mercury, selenium, and fatty acids in the axial muscle of largemouth bass: evaluating the influence of seasonal and sexual changes in fish condition and reproductive status. Ecotoxicology 31, 761–781 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10646-022-02544-4

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