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Aquat Toxicol. 2007 Aug 15;84(1):27-37. Epub 2007 May 25.

Effects of hexazinone and atrazine on the physiology and endocrinology of smolt development in Atlantic salmon.

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  • 1Department of Natural Resources Conservation and Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, University of Massachusetts, USGS, Leetown Science Center, Conte Anadromous Fish Research Center, Turners Falls, Amherst, MA 01003, USA.


Exposure to hexazinone (HEX) and atrazine (ATZ), highly mobile and widely used herbicides along rivers in the United States, is potentially harmful to Atlantic salmon, which have been listed as an endangered species. To determine the effects of these contaminants on smolt development, juvenile Atlantic salmon were exposed under flow-through conditions to 100 microgl(-1) HEX, 10 and 100 microgl(-1) ATZ in fresh water (FW) for 21 days at 10 degrees C beginning in mid-April. Twelve fish per treatment were sampled in FW, following a 24h seawater (SW) challenge and after growth for 3 months in SW. Exposure to 100 microgl(-1) HEX or 10microgl(-1) ATZ caused no mortalities of smolts in FW or after SW challenge, while 9% of the fish exposed to 100 microgl(-1) ATZ died during exposure. Fish exposed to 100 microgl(-1) ATZ reduced feeding after 10 days of exposure and had an impaired growth rate in FW and during the first month in SW; compensatory growth occurred in the second and third month in SW. HEX and ATZ at 10 microgl(-1) exposure had no effect on plasma levels of cortisol, growth hormone (GH), insulin growth factor I (IGF-I), thyroxine (T(4)) and plasma 3,5,3'-triiodo-l-thyronine (T(3)), Cl(-), Mg(2+), Na(+), Ca(2+) in FW or after SW challenge. FW smolts exposed to 100 microgl(-1) ATZ had decreased plasma Cl(-), Mg(2+), Na(+) and Ca(2+) ions and increased cortisol. No effect on plasma levels of GH, IGF-I, T(4) or T(3) was found in FW smolts exposed to 100 microgl(-1) ATZ. Following SW challenge, fish previously exposed to 100 microgl(-1) ATZ had significant increases in hematocrit, plasma cortisol, Cl(-), Mg(2+), Na(+), Ca(2+) and a decrease in T(4) and T(3). It is concluded that under the conditions imposed in this study, HEX does not affect salinity tolerance of Atlantic salmon smolts, while ATZ causes ionoregulatory, growth and endocrine disturbance.

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