Journal article Open Access

A Teratogenic Deformity Index for Evaluating Impacts of Selenium on Fish Populations

Dennis Lemly, A.

This paper describes a method for using teratogenic deformities in fish as the basis for evaluating impacts of selenium contamination. Teratogenic deformities are reliable bioindicators of selenium toxicosis in fish. They are produced in response to dietary exposure of parent fish and subsequent deposition of selenium in eggs. There is a close parallel between selenium concentrations in eggs, incidence of teratogenic deformities in larvae, and magnitude of reproductive failure. Using these relationships, an index was developed for teratogenic-based assessment of impacts to fish populations. The index is composed of three ratings that signify increasing levels of terata-induced population mortality: 1, negligible impact (< 5% population mortality); 2, slight to moderate impact (5-20% population mortality); 3, major impact (> 20% population mortality). Each rating is based on the anticipated population-level impact of the corresponding degree of mortality. Teratogenic-based impact assessment provides a conclusive cause-effect linkage between the contaminant and the fish. It is particularly useful for verifying selenium-induced impacts on reproductive success because poor reproduction can be caused by many things-i.e., fluctuating water levels, nest predation, food shortages, poor recruitment, etc. The index given here should be a useful tool for evaluating the effect of selenium on fish populations. Moreover, application of this technique may save considerable time and money by identifying the most efficient use of manpower and funds early in the assessment process.

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