We examined effects of dietary methylmercury (MeHg) on reproduction of fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas). Juvenile fish were fed one of four diets until sexual maturity (phase 1): a control diet (0.06 μg Hg g-1 dry weight) and three diets contaminated with MeHg at 0.88 (low), 4.11 (medium), and 8.46 μg Hg g-1 dry weight (high). At sexual maturity, male and female fish were paired, again fed one of the four diets, and allowed to reproduce (phase 2). To assess effects of MeHg during gametogenesis, some fish were fed diets during phase 2 that differed from those during phase 1. Spawning success of pairs fed the same diet during phases 1 and 2 was 75% for controls and 46%, 50%, and 36% for the low-, medium-, and high-MeHg treatments, respectively. Spawning success of pairs fed a contaminated diet during phase 1 and a control diet during phase 2 was 63%, 40%, and 14% for the low-, medium-, and high-MeHg treatments, respectively, whereas exposure to dietary MeHg only during phase 2 did not reduce spawning success. Dietary MeHg delayed spawning, and days to spawning was positively correlated with concentration of total mercury in the carcasses of test fish. MeHg reduced the instantaneous rate of reproduction of fish fed the same diets during phases 1 and 2. Both the gonadosomatic index and reproductive effort of female fish were inversely correlated with mercury in carcasses, whereas developmental and hatching success of embryos, 7-d survival, and 7-d growth of larvae were unrelated to mercury concentrations in parental fish or their diets. MeHg decreased reproduction of adult fathead minnows at dietary concentrations encountered by predatory fishes in aquatic systems with MeHg-contaminated food webs, implying that exposed fish populations could be adversely affected by this widespread contaminant.
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Effects of dietary methylmercury on reproduction of fathead minnows