Use of biological characteristics of common carp (Cyprinus carpio) to indicate exposure to hormonally active agents in selected Minnesota streams, 1999

Water-Resources Investigations Report 2000-4202

Prepared in cooperation with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources
ORCID iD , , , , and



The presence of hormonally active agents (HAAs) was determined in selected Minnesota streams using biological characteristics (measures of endocrine disruption) of common carp (Cyprinus carpio) exposed to wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluent and runoff from agricultural and forested land. Four biological characteristics of common carp were used as indicators of HAAs in the streams selected for this study: (1) high concentrations of vitellogenin in male fish and low concentrations in female fish, (2) high or low plasma concentrations of the sex steroid hormones (17β-estradiol and 11-ketotestosterone), (3) low gonado-somatic index (GSI) (gonad weight divided by total body weight multiplied by 100) values, and (4) abnormal gonad histopathology (high percent of atretic oocytes in female ovaries and high percent ceroid/lipofuscin tissue in male or female gonads). The study design was a paired site approach targeting sites downstream and upstream of WWTP discharges on different streams. Male (221 individuals) and female (201 individuals) common carp were collected using electrofishing techniques from seven streams with sites at two locations (upstream and downstream of WWTPs), and eight sites located downstream of WWTPs with no upstream-paired sites. Samples were collected between August 3 and September 13, 1999.

The presence of HAAs in selected Minnesota streams was indicated by biological characteristics in common carp. Biological characteristics used in this study identified WWTP effluent as a potential source of HAAs. Additionally, fish located at sites upstream of WWTP effluent primarily draining agricultural land show indications of HAAs, which may be the result of agricultural runoff or other sources of HAAs. There was variability among all sites and among sites within each site group. Differences among sites may be due to differences in water chemistry or fish exposure time. Natural variation in the biological characteristics may account for some of the differences observed in this study. This study and others indicate the presence of HAAs in surface water and the potential signs of endocrine disruption in resident fish populations. Detailed controlled studies could confirm the effects of particular chemicals such as pesticides or components of WWTPs on fish reproduction and population structure.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Use of biological characteristics of common carp (Cyprinus carpio) to indicate exposure to hormonally active agents in selected Minnesota streams, 1999
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Mounds View, MN
Contributing office(s):
Minnesota Water Science Center
iv, 47 p.
Time Range Start:
Time Range End:
United States
Online Only (Y/N):
Additional Online Files (Y/N):