Trace metal elements and organic contaminants are differently related to the growth and body condition of wild European sea bass juveniles

Chemical contaminants are one of the causes of the ongoing degradation of coastal and estuarine nurseries, key functional habitats in which the juveniles of many marine species grow. As chemical contaminants can cause a decrease in the energy available and induce defence mechanisms reducing the amount of energy allocated to life history traits, quantifying their effect on the fitness of juvenile fish is key to understand their population-level consequences. However, these effects are primarily estimated experimentally or in the wild but on a limited number of contaminants or congeners that do not reflect the wide variety of chemical contaminants to which juvenile fish are exposed. To address this issue, we measured concentrations of 14 trace metal elements (TMEs) and bioaccumulative organic contaminants (OCs) in European sea bass juveniles (1-year-old) from three major French nurseries (Seine, Loire and Gironde estuaries). We tested the hypotheses that (i) levels and profiles of contaminants differed among studied nurseries, and ii) fish growth and body condition (based on morphometric measurements and muscle C:N ratio) were lower in individuals with higher contaminant concentrations. Multivariate analyses showed that each nursery had distinct contaminant profiles for both TMEs and OCs, confirming the specific contamination of each estuary, and the large array of contaminants accumulated by sea bass juveniles. Increasing concentrations in some TMEs were associated to decreased growth, and TMEs were consistently related to lower fish body condition. The effect of OCs was more difficult to pinpoint possibly due to operational constraints (i.e., analyses on pooled fish) with contrasting results (i.e., higher growth and decreased body condition). Overall, this study shows that chemical contaminants are related to lower fish growth and body condition at an early life stage in the wild, an effect that can have major consequences if sustained in subsequent ages and associated with a decline in survival and/or reproductive success.


Chemical contaminants, Dicentrarchus labrax, Early-life stages, Inorganic elements, Anthropogenic impacts, Marine pollution

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Lebigre Christophe, Aminot Yann, Munschy Catherine, Drogou Mickael, Le Goff Ronan, Briant Nicolas, Chouvelon Tiphaine (2022). Trace metal elements and organic contaminants are differently related to the growth and body condition of wild European sea bass juveniles. Aquatic Toxicology. 248. 106207 (10p.).,

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