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Environ Toxicol Chem. 2009 Nov;28(11):2386-96. doi: 10.1897/09-032.1. Epub 2009 Jul 23.

Challenges in current adult fish laboratory reproductive tests: suggestions for refinement using a mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus) case study.

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Department of Biology and Canadian Rivers Institute, University of New Brunswick, Saint John, New Brunswick E2L 4L5.


Concerns about screening endocrine-active contaminants have led to the development of a number of short-term fish reproductive tests. A review conducted of 62 published adult fish reproductive papers using various fish species found low samples sizes (mean of 5.7 replicates with a median of 5 replicates) and high variance (an average coefficient of variance of 43.8%). The high variances and low sample sizes allow only relatively large differences to be detected with the current protocols; the average significant difference detected was a 68.7% reduction in egg production, while only differences above 50% were detected with confidence. This result indicates low power to detect more subtle differences and a high probability of type II errors in interpretation. The present study identifies several ways to increase the power of the adult fish reproductive test in the mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus). By identifying the peak timing of egg production (before and after the new moon), extending the duration of the experiment (increased from 7 to 14 d), and determining that a sample size of eight replicate tanks per treatment accurately predicts variance in the sample population (based on pre-exposure variation calculations of replicate tanks), the power of the test has been significantly increased. The present study demonstrates that weaknesses in the current adult fish reproductive tests can easily be addressed by focusing on improved understanding of the reproductive behavior of the test species and developing study designs that include calculating desired variability levels and increasing replicates.

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