Effects of Dissolved Copper on Select Hematological, Biochemical, and Immunological Parameters of Wild Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus Mykiss)

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Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) were sampled from a creek in the western Sierra Nevada, Plumas County, CA, that receives run-off from a 40-ha copper (Cu) tailings pile. Reference sites included a site upstream of the Cu input and another site located on a nearby creek. Hepatic Cu concentrations were significantly elevated in trout from sites with elevated dissolved Cu concentrations compared with concentrations in trout from reference sites. Trout at the Cu-contaminated sites also exhibited decreased hematocrit (Hct), leukocrit (Lct), and percentage of lymphocytes in blood compared to trout from reference sites. The percentage of monocytes in blood and respiratory burst activity were affected by gender and age, respectively. Condition factor, percentage of neutrophils in blood, muscle glycogen and protein, and plasma acetylcholinesterase were not affected by dissolved Cu concentration or gender. Age also did not appear to be a factor. The data from this study support the use of immune system parameters to assess alterations in salmonids experiencing prolonged exposure to low-level Cu contamination and illustrate the variability in physiological responses of wild fish caused by demographic features. Overall, of the parameters measured, Hct, Lct, and percentage of lymphocytes in blood appeared to offer robust measures for assessing effects of metals on wild fish and did not appear affected by select demographic features.