Contaminant concentrations in Asian carps, invasive species in the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers

David L. Rogowski, D. J. Soucek, J. M. Levengood, S. R. Johnson, J. H. Chick, J. M. Dettmers, M. A. Pegg, J. M. Epifanio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Populations of invasive fishes quickly reach extremely high biomass. Before control methods can be applied, however, an understanding of the contaminant loads of these invaders carry is needed. We investigated differences in concentrations of selected elements in two invasive carp species as a function of sampling site, fish species, length and trophic differences using stable isotopes (δ15N, δ13C). Fish were collected from three different sites, the Illinois River near Havana, Illinois, and two sites in the Mississippi River, upstream and downstream of the Illinois River confluence. Five bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) and five silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) from each site were collected for muscle tissue analyses. Freshwater mussels (Amblema plicata) previously collected in the same areas were used as an isotopic baseline to standardize fish results among sites. Total fish length, trophic position, and corrected 13C, were significantly related to concentrations of metals in muscle. Fish length explained the most variation in metal concentrations, with most of that variation related to mercury levels. This result was not unexpected because larger fish are older, giving them a higher probability of exposure and accumulation of contaminants. There was a significant difference in stable isotope profiles between the two species. Bighead carp occupied a higher trophic position and had higher levels of corrected 13C than silver carp. Additionally bighead carp had significantly lower concentrations of arsenic and selenium than silver carp. Stable isotope ratios of nitrogen in Asian carp were at levels that are more commonly associated with higher-level predators, or from organisms in areas containing high loads of wastewater effluent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-222
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009


  • Carp
  • Illinois River
  • Invasive species
  • Metals
  • Mississippi River
  • Stable isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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