Factors Associated with Intersex Largemouth Bass from Impoundments in the Southeastern United States
Robert B. Bringolf, Brian J. Irwin, and Kristen A. Kellock
Abstract.—Reports of testicular oocytes (intersex) in fish are increasing worldwide. Intersex is often associated with estrogens in treated wastewater effluents, but few studies have explored other potentially explanatory factors. Our recent survey of intersex Largemouth Bass Micropterus salmoides in 11 impoundments across Georgia, USA found high incidence (>80%) of intersex fish in some impoundments but none in others. To explore factors associated with intersex in the impoundments, which did not receive wastewater, we examined potential predictor variables that varied among the levels of individual fish, impoundment, or landscape in a binomial mixed-model regression approach. Our model indicated effects of fish length, catch per unit effort (an index of fish density), and impoundment, which was the strongest effect. The probability of intersex was highest in smaller fish from impoundments with the highest catch rates. The underlying mechanism(s) for the impoundment effect remain unclear, but we hypothesize that estrogens excreted by high densities of fish and cyanobacteria may influence intersex. Additional studies are needed to understand the long-term population implications of intersex and the role of other biological and environmental factors, particularly at the impoundment level, in development of the intersex condition.