Hypoxia and Reduced Salinity Exacerbate the Effects of Oil Exposure on Sheepshead Minnow (Cyprinidon variegatus) Reproduction

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Coastal Sciences, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory


Estuaries of the northern Gulf of Mexico are dynamic environments, with fluctuations in salinity and dissolved oxygen, including areas of seasonal hypoxia. Fish that reside and reproduce in these estuaries, including sheepshead minnow (Cyprinodon variegatus; SHM), were at significant risk of oil exposure following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill incident. It is poorly understood how differences in environmental conditions during oil exposure impact its toxicity. The present study investigated the effects of crude oil high-energy water accommodated fraction (HEWAF) on SHM reproduction in three environmental scenarios (normoxic (NORM), hypoxic (HYP), and hypoxic with low salinity (HYP-LS)) to determine if differences in salinity (brackish vs low salinity) and dissolved oxygen (normoxia vs hypoxia) could exacerbate the effects of HEWAF-derived polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). We observed that HEWAF exposure significantly increased liver somatic index of SHM compared to control, but this effect was not exacerbated by hypoxia or low salinity. HEWAF exposure also significantly decreased egg production and egg fertilization rate, and the HYP and HYP-LS scenarios exacerbated these effects. A significant correlation existed between body burdens of PAHs and reproductive endpoints, providing substantial evidence that oil exposure reduced reproductive capacity in SHM, across a range of environmental conditions. These data suggest that oil spill risk assessments that fail to consider other environmental stressors (i.e. hypoxia and salinity) may be underestimating risk.

Publication Title

Aquatic Toxicology

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