The gastrointestinal tracts of 37 juvenile white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) captured from the upper part of Lake Roosevelt during October 2008, were examined to identify prey taxa and to determine if the fish were consuming smelter slag along with other sediments. Histological examination of the gastrointestinal tract tissues and comparison with similar tissues from hatchery-reared fish also was performed. The contents of the gastro-intestinal tracts (guts) indicated that white sturgeon were actively foraging on various benthic invertebrates and the diet was quite diverse, with more than 50 percent of the fish feeding on five or more different taxa. Slag was present in 76 percent of the guts examined. Although not all guts contained slag particles, larger fish tended to have greater amounts of slag in their guts. Histology of the gut tissues showed the presence of a chronic inflammatory response, and the severity of the response had a significant positive correlation (P = 0.01) with fish length and weight suggesting that the inflammation represented a response to long-term exposure to one or more stressors. However, additional work is needed to determine if the physical or chemical properties of slag contributed to this response.
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Characterization of the contents and histology of the gastrointestinal tracts of White Sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) captured from Upper Lake Roosevelt, Washington, October 2008