Long-term effects of an early-life exposure of fathead minnows to sediments containing bitumen. Part I: Survival, deformities, and growth.


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The aim of this study was to investigate the long-term effects of a short exposure to natural sediments within the Athabasca oil sand formation to critical stages of embryo-larval development in fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas). Three different sediments were used: Ref sediment from the upper Steepbank River tested at 3 g/L (containing 12.2 ng/g ∑PAHs), and two bitumen-rich sediments tested at 1 and 3 g/L; one from the Ells River (Ells downstream, 6480 ng/g ∑PAHs) and one from the Steepbank River (Stp downstream, 4660 ng/g ∑PAHs). Eggs and larvae were exposed to sediments for 21 days, then transferred to clean water for a 5-month grow-out and recovery period. Larval fish had significantly decreased survival after exposure to 3 g/L sediment from Stp downstream, and decreased growth (length and weight at 16 days post hatch) in Ells and Stp downstream sediments at both 1 and 3 g/L. Decreased tail length was a sensitive endpoint in larval fish exposed to Ells and Stp downstream sediments for 21 days compared to Ref sediment. After the grow-out in clean water, all growth effects from the bitumen-containing sediments recovered, but adult fish from Stp downstream 3 g/L sediment had significant increases in jaw deformities. The study shows the potential for fish to recover from the decreased growth effects caused by sediments containing oil sands-related compounds, but that some effects of the early-life sediment exposure occur later on in adult fish.


Adults,Fish,Juveniles,Larvae,Life cycle,Oil sands,Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs),

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