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Keywords:

  • Rainbow trout;
  • Brook trout;
  • Selenium;
  • Toxicity threshold;
  • Teratogenesis

Abstract

Elevated concentrations of Se have been detected in cold, flowing water habitats near uranium and coal mines in Canada. Fish from these systems have concentrations of Se in their tissues that exceed toxic effect thresholds that have been established for warm-water fishes. However, the applicability of toxic effect thresholds and guidelines to cold water, lotic habitats is a matter of contention in the literature since most cases of Se toxicosis have been documented in standing, warm-water systems. To examine the possibility of impaired reproduction in wild rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) near coal mining activity in the northeastern slopes region of Alberta, Canada, spawn from both species were collected from exposure and reference sites. Gametes were fertilized in the laboratory, reared to the swim-up stage, and examined for deformities. A significant relationship was observed for rainbow trout between the amount of Se in eggs and the incidence of developmental abnormalities, specifically craniofacial defects, skeletal deformities, and edema. These associations approximate exponential functions with probabilities that 15% of the population would be affected occurring between 8.8 and 10.5 μg Se per gram of wet egg weight, based on probit analysis. These relationships are similar to those described for centrarchids inhabiting a seleniferous warm-water lake. No such relationships were established for brook trout.