Fathead Minnow and Bluegill Sunfish Life-Stage Responses to 17β-Estradiol Exposure in Outdoor Mesocosms


  • Paper No. JAWRA-13-0047-P of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA).
  • Discussions are open until six months from print publication.


Developmental and reproductive effects of 17β-estradiol (E2) exposure on two generations of fathead minnows and one generation of bluegill sunfish were assessed. Fish were exposed to E2 for six continuous weeks in outdoor mesocosms simulating natural lake environments. First generation fish were exposed while sexually mature. Second generation fathead minnows were exposed either during early development, sexual maturity, or both stages. Multiple endpoints were measured to assess effects of E2 exposure on fecundity and fish health and development. Plasma vitellogenin concentrations were highly variable in all fish. Differences in egg production timing for both species indicate differences in fecundity between females exposed to E2 and controls. First generation fathead minnows exposed to E2 had lower body condition factors and reduced secondary sexual characteristic expression by males. Only a difference in relative liver weight was observed in second generation fathead minnows. First generation bluegill males exposed to E2 had significantly smaller testes compared to controls. Although fish response was highly variable, results indicate that exposure to E2 at environmentally relevant concentrations affect fathead minnow and bluegill sunfish health and development, which may have implications for the health and sustainability of fish populations. Furthermore, exposure timing and environmental factors affect fish response to E2 exposure.