Alternate Title

An Estuarine Low-Temperature Fish-Kill in Mississippi, with Remarks on Restricted Necropsies

Document Type



In January 1973, large numbers of Mugil cephalus (striped mullet), weighing approximately 250 gm each, died in two freshwater localities in tidewater bayous of Jackson County, Mississippi. Fish identified as Mugil curema, M. cephalus, Megalops atlantica, Dormitator maculatus, and Fundulus grandis were found dead in other low saline estuarine areas. Fish-kills during cold periods are less commonly encountered in Mississippi than in Texas or Florida. This particular incident is attributed to conditions of stress for fishes incompletely acclimated to the encountered low temperatures. The most deleterious stress was the low saline water which probably allowed a breakdown in the fishes’ ion-osmoregulatory mechanisms. Striped mullet and other euryhaline fishes in salinities greater than 6 ppt survived, as did freshwater centrarchids and ictalurids in areas with dying mullet. Other stresses thought to contribute to the weakening of striped mullet in Paige Bayou during the period of rapidly decreasing temperatures include starvation and high levels of pesticide residues. In examined fish, the alimentary tracts were devoid of food, the gall bladders were distended and leaking bile, the livers contained excess lipid material and were often stained throughout with bile pigments, and the levels of DDT metabolites and endrin residues in the liver were higher than in control fish. Stress caused by low levels of dissolved oxygen, toxic substances in the water, or disease was discounted as a cause of death.

First Page


Last Page