Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Thiamine deficiency in fishes: Causes, consequences, and potential solutions

October 5, 2018

Thiamine deficiency complex (TDC) is a disorder resulting from the inability to acquire or retain thiamine (vitamin B1) and has been documented in organisms in aquatic ecosystems ranging from the Baltic Sea to the Laurentian Great Lakes. The biological mechanisms leading to TDC emergence may vary among systems, but in fishes, one common outcome is high mortality among early life stages. Here, we review the causes and consequences of thiamine deficiency in fishes and identify potential solutions. First, we examine the biochemical and physiological roles of thiamine in vertebrates and find that thiamine deficiency consistently results in impaired neurological function across diverse taxa. Next, we review natural producers of thiamine, which include bacteria, fungi, and plants, and suggest that thiamine is not currently limiting for most animal species inhabiting natural aquatic environments. A survey of historic occurrences of thiamine deficiency identifies consumption of a thiamine-degrading enzyme, thiaminase, as the primary explanation for low levels of thiamine in individuals and subsequent onset of TDC. Lastly, we review conservation and management strategies for TDC mitigation ranging from evolutionary rescue to managing for a diverse forage base. As recent evidence suggests occurrences of thiamine deficiency may be increasing in frequency, increased awareness and a better mechanistic understanding of the underlying causes associated with thiamine deficiency may help prevent further population declines.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2018
Title Thiamine deficiency in fishes: Causes, consequences, and potential solutions
DOI 10.1007/s11160-018-9538-x
Authors Avril M. Harder, William R. Ardren, Allison N. Evans, Matthew H. Futia, Clifford E. Kraft, J. Ellen Marsden, Catherine A. Richter, Jacques Rinchard, Donald E. Tillitt, Mark R. Christie
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries
Series Number
Index ID 70199951
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center