Sex effect on polychlorinated biphenyl concentrations in fish: a synthesis


Charles P Madenjian, U. S. Geological Survey, Great Lakes Science Center, Ann Arbor, MI 48105, USA
Tel.: 734 214 7259
Fax: 734 994 8780


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) accumulate in fish primarily via food intake, and therefore, PCBs serve as a chemical tracer for food consumption. Sex differences in PCB concentrations of fish have been attributed to the following three mechanisms: (i) females losing a substantial portion of their PCB body burden during spawning and consequently their PCB concentration is considerably reduced immediately after spawning; (ii) sex differences in habitat utilization leading to sex differences in the PCB concentrations of the prey; and (iii) sex differences in gross growth efficiency, which is defined as growth divided by the amount of food consumption needed to achieve that growth. Based on my analyses and synthesis, mechanisms (i) and (ii) operate in relatively few fish populations, but can lead to mature males having PCB concentrations two to three times higher than mature female PCB concentrations. In contrast, mechanism (iii) operates in all fish populations, but typically, mechanism (iii) results in relatively modest sex differences, with mature males only between 15 and 35% higher in PCB concentration than mature females. In summary, the study of sex differences in PCB concentrations of fish has led to insights into fish behaviour and fish physiology.