Ecological comparisons were made between two Lake Erie tributaries (Black and Cuyahoga rivers) with contaminated sediments and elevated rates of tumors in fish populations and a third, relatively unpolluted reference tributary, the Huron River. Fish populations, benthic invertebrates, and sediments were evaluated in all three Ohio rivers. Community structure analyses indicated similar total densities but lower species diversity for fish and benthic invertebrates in the contaminated rivers when compared with the reference river. Growth rates in fish from the contaminated areas were either similar to or higher than those of fish from the reference site. Brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus) from the two contaminated tributaries exhibited 51% (Black River) and 45% (Cuyahoga River) incidence of liver lesions (neoplastic and preneoplastic) as compared with a 4% incidence of liver lesions in brown bullhead from the reference river (Huron River). Incidence of external abnormalities on brown bullhead was 54% (Black River) and 73% (Cuyahoga River) as compared with a 14% incidence on fish from the Huron River. On a regional basis, incidence of external abnormalities on particular benthic fish species may be an effective method to quickly indicate areas for more intensive contaminant studies.
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Ecological comparisons of Lake Erie tributaries with elevated incidence of fish tumors