This study examined the hypothesis that exposure to sublethal concentrations of contaminants alters the gonadal condition of feral common carp Cyprinus carpio. Adult common carp in Lake Mead, Nevada, were collected from a contaminated site (Las Vegas Bay) that receives municipal and industrial effluent and from a reference site (Overton Arm) with a relatively low level of contamination. Fish were sampled seven times over a 1-year period extending over two separate spawning seasons. Morphometric and histopathological parameters of gonadal and germ cell development were determined. In males, the pattern of seasonal changes in the gonadosomatic index (GSI) was similar between the sites and showed no clear association with site-specific seasonal temperature profiles. However, Las Vegas Bay males had consistently lower GSI values and, on one of the sampling dates, a lower proportion of sperm relative to other germ cell stages (determined histologically). Further, Las Vegas Bay males had a higher incidence of gonadal macrophage aggregates, which are putative tissue biomarkers of contaminant exposure in fishes. In females, seasonal GSI profiles, the frequency of fish with postovulatory follicles (an index of spawning activity), and the timing of new follicle recruitment all showed differences between sites, but these differences generally matched differences in water temperature profile. Also, the peak size-frequency of full-grown follicles did not differ between sites, and estimates of fecundity for the second spawning season indicated that females from the reference site unexpectedly produced a lower number of gametes, Overall, site differences in gonadal condition were observed in carp of both sexes but they seemed to be associated with site differences in contaminant levels only in males. The apparent lack of association between contaminant level and gonadal condition in female carp from mildly mesotrophic Lake Mead may indicate a lack of contaminant effects in females or a confounding effect of the higher nutrient loads in the Las Vegas Bay environment.
Additional publication details
Morphometric and histopathological parameters of gonadal development in adult common carp from contaminated and reference sites in Lake Mead, Nevada