Ecologically relevant biomarkers reveal that chronic effects of nitrate depend on sex and life stage in the invasive fish Gambusia holbrooki

Oriol Cano-Rocabayera, Adolfo De Sostoa, Francesc Padrós, Lorena Cárdenas, Alberto Maceda-Veiga

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© 2019 Cano-Rocabayera et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Agricultural intensification and shifts in precipitation regimes due to global climate change are expected to increase nutrient concentrations in aquatic ecosystems. However, the direct effects of nutrients widely present in wastewaters, such as nitrate, are poorly studied. Here, we use multiple indicators of fish health to experimentally test the effects of three ecologically relevant nitrate concentrations (<10, 50 and 250 mg NO 3- /l) on wild-collected mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki), a species widely introduced for mosquito biocontrol in often eutrophic waters. Overall, biomarkers (histopathology, feeding assays, growth and caloric content and stable isotopes as indicators of energy content) did not detect overt signs of serious disease in juveniles, males or females of mosquitofish. However, males reduced food intake at the highest nitrate concentration compared to the controls and females. Similarly, juveniles reduced energy reserves without significant changes in growth or food intake. Calorimetry was positively associated with the number of perivisceral fat cells in juveniles, and the growth rate of females was negatively associated with δ 15 N signature in muscle. This study shows that females are more tolerant to nitrate than males and juveniles and illustrates the advantages of combing short- and long-term biomarkers in environmental risk assessment, including when testing for the adequacy of legal thresholds for pollutants.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0211389
JournalPLoS ONE
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


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