Walleye (Sander vitreus) are a commercially important North American fish species that inhabit the Athabasca River. This river flows through the Athabasca oil sands where natural sources of bitumen erode from the McMurray formation. Little information is available on responses of walleye embryos to oil sands tailings pond sediments in a laboratory setting. The current study describes the design and implementation of a daily-renewal bioassay to assess the potential effects of tailings pond sediments from the Athabasca oil sands area on walleye development. Developing walleye embryos were exposed to increasing concentrations of two tailings pond sediments (collected in the Athabasca oil sands area) until the completion of yolk absorption in control fish. Sediments from the tailings pond represent a mixture of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and alkylated PAHs. During the 31 day exposure, the walleye were examined for mortalities, weight, length and developmental abnormalities to provide an initial evaluation of the effects of the oil sands tailings pond sediments. Walleye embryo survival differed between the tailings pond sediments, and survival decreased with increasing sediment concentration. Alkylated PAH content differed between the two tailings pond sediments and lower embryo survival corresponded to higher total and alkylated PAH content. Tailings pond sediment-exposed walleye exhibited a delay in development, as well as increased percentages of larvae with heart and yolk sac edema, and cranial and spinal malformations. These abnormalities in development are often associated with PAH and alkylated PAH exposure. This study provides an exposure design that can be used to assess sediment toxicity to early developmental stages of a fish species not commonly tested in the lab, and lays the groundwork for future studies with this and other difficult-to-culture species. These results offer information on the potential effects of tailings pond sediments containing PAH/alkylated PAH mixtures on walleye development and survival.
Environmental Pollution – Elsevier
Published: Oct 1, 2017
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