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Assessment of the health status of wild fish from the Wheatley Harbour Area of Concern, Ontario, Canada

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The overall health and endocrine function of wild brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus) and goldfish (Carassius auratus) from the Wheatley Harbour Area of Concern (Lake Erie, Ontario, Canada) was assessed using a suite of physiological and biochemical endpoints. Smaller gonads were detected in female brown bullhead and goldfish from Wheatley Harbour compared with Hillman Marsh (Ontario, Canada) reference fish. Female brown bullhead exhibited decreased in vitro synthesis of 17β‐estradiol. Female goldfish had decreased plasma vitellogenin concentrations. Plasma testosterone and 11‐ketotestosterone were significantly depressed in males of both species. Perturbations in the thyroid status were detected, but varied between sexes and species. Observed differences included lower plasma concentrations of thyroid hormones and/or elevated liver deiodinase activity. Histological evaluation of the thyroid tissue indicated that in the case of female goldfish, those perturbations stimulated the thyroid (as indicated by increased thyroid epithelial cell height) and partially depleted the thyroxine reserves, as indicated by decreased colloid and elevated thyroid activation index. Increased mixed‐function oxygenase activity in brown bullhead from Wheatley Harbour was consistent with exposure to planar aromatic contaminants. A principal component analysis of selected variables showed the separation of fish by collection site. The endpoints most strongly associated with the separation were generally those exhibiting significant differences between sites. The results of the present study indicate that the health of fish populations within Wheatley Harbour warrants continued attention. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. © 2012 Crown in the Right of Canada

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