• Biomarker;
  • Vitellogenin;
  • Fathead minnow;
  • Fecundity;
  • Population modeling


A challenge in the field of ecotoxicology is the linkage of alterations at molecular and biochemical levels of organization to adverse outcomes in individuals and populations. In the present study, a predictive relationship between plasma vitellogenin (VTG) concentration and fecundity in female fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) was derived from 21-d laboratory toxicity tests with five chemicals (17β-trenbolone, 17α-trenbolone, prochloraz, fenarimol, and fadrozole) that inhibit VTG production through different mechanisms. Because VTG is key to egg production in female oviparous animals, changes in the lipoprotein could, theoretically, serve as an indicator of reproductive success. Regression of fecundity versus VTG concentration from the various studies yielded a highly significant linear model (fecundity = −0.042 + 0.95-VTG, p < 0.01, r2 = 0.88). This relationship was integrated into a population model to translate changes in VTG concentrations of female fathead minnows to alterations in population growth. The model predicted relatively profound effects on population size offish experiencing moderate decreases in vitellogenesis. For example, a fathead minnow population at a carrying capacity exposed to a chemical stressor that causes a 25% decrease in VTG concentration in females from baseline values would exhibit a 34.6% projected decrease in size after two years of exposure and reach an equilibrium population size that was only 30.2% of the preexposed population. Overall, the current study provides an example of how changes in a biomarker (VTG concentration) can be quantitatively translated into adverse effects at the individual and population levels.