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Lifetime chronicles of selenium exposure linked to deformities in an imperiled migratory fish

February 24, 2020

Aquatic ecosystems worldwide face growing threats from elevated levels of contaminants from human activities. Toxic levels of selenium (Se) shown to cause deformities in birds, fish, and mammals can transfer from parents to progeny during embryonic development or accumulate through Se-enriched diets. For migratory species that move across landscapes, tracking exposure to elevated Se is vital to mitigating vulnerabilities. Yet, traditional toxicological investigations resolve only recent Se exposure. Here, we use a novel combination of X-ray fluorescence microscopy and depositional chronology in a biomineral to reveal for the first time provenance, life stage, and duration of toxic Se exposure over the lifetime of an organism. Spinal deformities observed in wild Sacramento Splittail (Pogonichthys macrolepidotus), an imperiled migratory minnow, were attributed to elevated Se acquired through maternal transfer and juvenile feeding on contaminated prey. This novel approach paves the way for diagnosing sources, pathways, and potential for a cumulative exposure of Se relevant for conservation.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Lifetime chronicles of selenium exposure linked to deformities in an imperiled migratory fish
DOI 10.1021/acs.est.9b06419
Authors Rachel C. Johnson, Robin Stewart, Karin Limburg, Rong Huang, Dennis E. Cocherell, Frederick Feyrer
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Science & Technology
Index ID 70210615
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization WMA - Office of the Chief Operating Officer