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Male Bass in Potomac Producing Eggs

michael posted more than 9 years ago | from the hello-mother-hello-father dept.

Science 52

Shakrai writes "The Washington Post is carrying a story about how male bass in the Potomac river are actually producing eggs. The source of this interesting phenomena is currently unknown. Scientists are speculating that it may have something to do with chicken estrogen left over in manure or perhaps even human hormones dumped in the river from sewage treatment plants. Scientists aren't sure if the affected fish are still able to reproduce and the long-term repercussions of this find are unknown."

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WTF? (-1, Redundant)

TrafficGeek (217056) | more than 9 years ago | (#10536845)


This has got to be one of the strangest things i've ever heard of. lol

Re:WTF? (2, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 9 years ago | (#10536976)

This has got to be one of the strangest things i've ever heard of. lol

I dunno. When I read the part about "human hormones" possibly being to blame I immediately thought of unused birth control pills/patches being to blame. I told my girlfriend not to flush her used patch down the toilet the last time we stayed in WV.... ;)

Re:WTF? (4, Informative)

Kobal (597997) | more than 9 years ago | (#10538064)

Actually, used birth control pills count here. Oestrogens are sulfo-conjugated, and then eliminated in urine. By the way, premarin is nothing else than equine sulfo-conjugated oestrogens.
Other oestrogenic endocrine disruptors include soy products (esp. after metabolization of genistein and daidzein into equol by the intestinal flora), heavy metals (esp. Cadmium; though I suspect hair metal could have some effect along the same line), many phytosanitary chemicals (DDT was a prime exemple, but atrazine and pyrethrenoids aren't bad either), as well as a whole lot of chemicals containing one or several phenol groups.

Re:WTF? (1)

WormholeFiend (674934) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539182)

though I suspect hair metal could have some effect along the same line

We definitely need a ban on Motley Crue and Poison, then.

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10546699)

equine sulfo-conjugated...

you mean like horse urine???

Re:WTF? (1)

Kobal (597997) | more than 8 years ago | (#10551624)

Exactly. PREgnant MAre uRINe.

WTF (was the moderator thinking)? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10538897)

Offtopic, maybe, but informative? Hope he gets trashed in metamod.

Oh no! (3, Funny)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 9 years ago | (#10536849)

Does this mean male geeks might find a way to perpetuate themselves after all? Well, the article didn't say the eggs could be fertilized, but... what if... your mother and father would be the same fish!

Re:Oh no! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10536936)

Does this mean male geeks might find a way to perpetuate themselves after all?
Male geeks still wouldn't have the womb necessary (nor, I suspect, would they be willing to go through the mood swings and morning sickness) for a baby. Thus, male geeks will still continue to be killed off in favor of the lesser male geeks with women skills.

Now, egg-laying fish is another story all together...

Re:Oh no! (1)

rev_sanchez (691443) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539994)

note to self:
Politely pass on bass caviar if offered.

Re:Oh no! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 9 years ago | (#10541126)

Then you'd be Eric Carpman.

Re:Oh no! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10545127)

> our mother and father would be the same fish!
You'd find yourself in kansas

Re:Oh no! (1)

jx100 (453615) | more than 9 years ago | (#10547903)

I'd love being Kerry Livgren!

I, for one.... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10537231)

I, for one, welcome our new male egg laying bass overlords.

shock (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10537261)

I'm surprised they could even catch the fish, let alone examine them. All of their equipment should have dissolved instantly upon impact with the Potomac. Why just the other day...[sniff]...poor little ducks...

Re:shock (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 9 years ago | (#10633971)

Too bad that hasn't happened to a certain city that lies on the Potomac...

In other news..... (0, Redundant)

nes11 (767888) | more than 9 years ago | (#10537371)

In other news, /. readers have finally discovered a successful source of reproduction.

Hollywood just announced... (3, Funny)

mbonig (727002) | more than 9 years ago | (#10537444)

Arnold Schwarzenegger has already made a statement: "This is not right, I'm the only male capable of reproduction!" and then he announced his plans to unleash a army of cybernetic robots to eliminate anybody 'treading on [his] turf'...

It's all your fault. (2, Interesting)

Dr. Bent (533421) | more than 9 years ago | (#10537451)

Scientists are speculating that it may have something to do with chicken estrogen left over in manure or perhaps even human hormones dumped in the river from sewage treatment plants.

Why is it that strange behavior (or what seems strange to us) is always seen as unnatural, and somehow our fault? Even the people looking into this case seem to be jumping to the conclusion that it is a pollutant, but in the same sentance they say that they don't really know what's causing it.

IIRC, there are a few species of amphibians that spontanously change gender when there's not enough of the opposite sex around. Evolutionarily speaking, fish and amphibians aren't that different, so why would you jump to the conclusion that that it's a pollutant? Maybe the people investigating this have some evidence to support that theory, but that wasn't mentioned in the article. Actually, the last two paragraphs go on to explain this this section of river has done "well on most aspects of water-quality testing" and that it is "one of our highest-quality fisheries".

Maybe it's a disease. Maybe it's a mutation. Maybe these particular bass cross bred with some frogs. Nobody can say for sure at this point, but they sure can speculate that it's all our fault. And that's just bad science.

Re:It's all your fault. (3, Insightful)

hal9000 (80652) | more than 9 years ago | (#10537575)

I just think the scientists are going on the set of facts available:

o Male fish producing eggs.
o Only observed in Potomac.
o Potomac is polluted as all get out.

They're going on what they know. It's not like their being dishonest by concluding that pollution is the culprit without enough evidence. They've come right out and said, we don't know, but this is our best guess.

Not only Potomac. (1)

emaveneau (552950) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539716)

Half of male fish in English rivers have eggs due to hormones in water supply [underreported.com] .

This BBC story [bbc.co.uk] is the source quoted in the under reported story.

At least the BBC clearly says that a 5 year study concluded what is immediately obvious (it is human waste causing the problem) as opposed to some spin related to chickens.

I'd wager all major urban centers are affected by this.

I recal the local newspaper (Toronto Star) saying estrogen like hormones are detectable in the drinking water, (but the Star is a net black hole w/o a search feature).

Cheers :)

Re:Not only Potomac. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10540886)

If estrogen-like hormones are detectable in water, how come testosterone-like ones are not also?

Hmm... I think again it's a misinterpretation of other statements of estrogen-like compounds in the environment.

These are chemicals that are not estrogen, but in the body, happen to bind to estrogen-binding sites in the body, and can induce some set of responses that estrogen would do.

Ewe sheep grazing on Red clover fields tend to have much lower fertility than on other forages. Why is that? Well, red clover has a couple of, get this, estrogen-like compounds in it in decent concentrations to keep the ewes from cycling. Who woulda thunk?

Re:It's all your fault. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10537863)

Maybe these particular bass cross bred with some frogs.

There is no way species from diffent families can interbreed, you need to read a bio textbook.

Yes, it is possible that there is a natural cause. However, we know that various polutants can cause these sorts of problems and that the river is polluted - this is the mostly likely cause. Yes it is a theory, but that's how science is done. You figure out the mostly likely theory then test it, rinse and repeat.

Re:It's all your fault. (2, Insightful)

yabbo (769491) | more than 9 years ago | (#10537925)

Why is it "bad science" to speculate that this bizarre phenomenon is our fault? While I do gather from the article that they only suspect that these male fish producing eggs is a result of pollution, can any good ever come of polluting the environment with poultry manure or "processed sewage" ?

Even the people looking into this case seem to be jumping to the conclusion that it is a pollutant, but in the same sentance they say that they don't really know what's causing it.

I don't know exactly which sentence you read, but I believe the statement (from the article):

"But they say the exact culprit is still unknown:..." means that they don't know which pollutant is causing the malfunction; not whether or a pollutant was involved at all.

Obviously there is a real possibility that this is a biological "miracle", and that it's completely natural behaviour. But read the article carefully and you'll discover that the only reason this behaviour was caught was that they were examining fish who had died "en masse" with lesions on their bodies. I'm no biologist, but that doesn't seem like natural behaviour.

Yeah, it's a new SPECIES! (3, Interesting)

Linux_ho (205887) | more than 9 years ago | (#10538003)

Maybe it's a disease. Maybe it's a mutation. Maybe these particular bass cross bred with some frogs. Nobody can say for sure at this point, but they sure can speculate that it's all our fault. And that's just bad science.

Yeah, the Potomac is famous for its purity. So despite the fact that it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, in all probability it is actually a fish-frog hybrid.

It's not as if we have any scientific [mindfully.org] evidence [findarticles.com] that human-created pollutants like chemicals released by common household plastics [007b.com] can produce weird hormonal reactions [altpenis.com] in humans and animals. By the way, please stop chewing on your pen, Bobby.

Re:It's all your fault. (1)

jdiggans (61449) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539906)

Simple answer: Occam's Razor.

Funny answer:

Maybe these particular bass cross bred with some frogs.

God I've love to see a fish try.

Re:It's all your fault. (1)

Wescotte (732385) | more than 9 years ago | (#10540751)

Maybe these particular bass cross bred with some frogs.

God I've love to see a fish try.


I run a fish/frog porn site that only cost a moddest 4.95 a month. If you're interested checkout the free tour at http://www.fishfuckingfrogs.com/freetour.html

Let me know what you think

Re:It's all your fault. (1)

haruchai (17472) | more than 8 years ago | (#10551043)

Hmmm, I couldn't get to your site; you must have been Slashdotted.

Re:It's all your fault. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10540850)

And that's just bad science.

No, it's a poor, alarmist hypothesis. If there were a couple of badly designed research studies that backed up this hypothesis, then *that* would be "bad science".

Merely stating an observation, and some possible ideas (aka speculation), is NOT science, unless people are accepting the statements as fact w/o doing anything to see if they really are true or not.

The environment *is* filling up with estrogen-like compounds (compounds that bind on estrogen receptors in the body). They have bad effects in the males of some animal species. In human males, these chemicals help lower sperm counts and motility.

The problem could also be that "killer" mutating diatom/protozoa, that at least in one article I read a few years ago *was* able to get some fish to go trans-gender, if it didn't kill them.

Human hormones, chicken estrogen, yes, THAT is a poor, alarmist misinterpretation of a current problem (estrogen-like compounds in the environment), and a bit of a reach. But if there is a chemical plant (or former plant site) upstream of the area, it may not be too far from the truth.

It still seems a bit outlandish right now. Did scientists also see this in other fish in aquatic chemical wastelands? If not, then...

At the very least, it brings attention to something that SHOULD probably be investigated, which is a bit part of science.

Fish aren't the only things with this problem.... (4, Informative)

rubberbando (784342) | more than 9 years ago | (#10537487)

Here is an article [andykerr.net] showing it happening to other species.

Re:Fish aren't the only things with this problem.. (1)

Linux_ho (205887) | more than 9 years ago | (#10538115)

Like Homo Sapiens? OK, well, as far as we know these pollutants aren't causing guys to grow ovaries yet. But there is definitely evidence [007b.com] they are affecting us.

Re:Fish aren't the only things with this problem.. (1)

vettemph (540399) | more than 9 years ago | (#10540804)

Fish aren't the only things with this problem...

yes... why, just the other day, I began to sobb for no apparent reason what-so-ever. surely I'll be producing eggs any day now.

Fish susceptibility (1)

TVC15 (518429) | more than 9 years ago | (#10537537)

Not knowing anything about bass in particular, I know many fish change their sexes during their lives for different reasons. Some start as female and then become male as the get older. Others change sex if there are 'too many' of their current sex. I don't doubt that pollution has a hand in this case but perhaps fish (and similar) are more susceptible to sex change.

But did you ask if it was NORMAL? (4, Interesting)

Engineer-Poet (795260) | more than 9 years ago | (#10538662)

Sex-changing in fish is sufficiently unusual that discoveries of species which do it make the scientific literature. If it was normal in bass, we'd certainly have learned about it long before now.

In this case, it's much worse than that. The fish's testicular tissue is claimed to have produced eggs, but you might notice that the article didn't mention anything about the morphological changes required to become a functioning female. If you began producing ova in your nuts would that make you female in any meaningful sense of the word, or just ill?

This phenomenon needs to be analyzed, the cause identified and stopped. If we don't do this, we're going to lose things starting with the fish, and continuing up to ourselves - and if this doesn't worry you, spend some time looking up the literature on hormone mimics, phthalate and the other disturbing stuff that gets to us in eerie ways like leaching out of baby bottles.

Sweet. (1)

jfisherwa (323744) | more than 9 years ago | (#10537641)

I caught you a delicious bass.

Re:Sweet. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 9 years ago | (#10541142)

Mmm, that's great bass!

Super Bass-o-Matic '76 wins again.

Bass Ale (2, Funny)

Omega1045 (584264) | more than 9 years ago | (#10537724)

As long as this does not impact Bass Ale production, I am fine with it.

Sorry, I can't take it anymore... (0, Offtopic)

shrikel (535309) | more than 9 years ago | (#10537785)

"Phenomena" is PLURAL! The singular is phenomenon. Jeez. I can't believe how many people get that mixed up.

Re:Sorry, I can't take it anymore... (1)

Stevyn (691306) | more than 9 years ago | (#10540043)

I know! That word is spreading like a bunch of virii.

Re:Sorry, I can't take it anymore... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10540517)

Yeah, I hate this new phenomena. The good news is it reminded me there's a word that rhymes with "manamana".

Re:Sorry, I can't take it anymore... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#10544750)

Doo-doo, do do-do.

I would have thought sewage in the Potomac... (2, Funny)

zeno53 (677624) | more than 9 years ago | (#10537901)

... would have been mostly of the male bovine variety. All very amusing unless you happen to be a bass. Or drink water.

Dr. Evil praises Mutated Sea Bass Experiment (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 9 years ago | (#10537953)

Dr. Evil has said he wanted Ill tempered Sea Bass, He meant really ill tempered, which is why me mutated the fish to be in a constant state of PMS. Side effects on the fish includes laying eggs.

" long-term repercussions"... (1)

nusratt (751548) | more than 9 years ago | (#10537965)

...are that we'll need a lot more tenors and sopranos to keep things balanced.

Maybe we can do an on-location production of Das Rheingold...

Not surprised (1)

g00mba_b0y (673009) | more than 9 years ago | (#10538590)

Given that the most appropriate response to a politician is "go and f*&k yourself", I'm not a bit surprised that this phenomena is showing up in the Potomac. I say we set up a PayPal donation fund for the research team to spend a few weeks in the Capitol building.

In a related story... (0, Troll)

slowhand (191637) | more than 9 years ago | (#10538776)

The Potomac River Daily News unveils new research showing scientists trying to do the work of biologists have difficulty discerning male and female members of certain fish species. They have also been shown to have insufficient skill in differentiating fish eggs from shinola.

Interesting... but... (1)

mindhaze (40009) | more than 9 years ago | (#10538989)

How many eyes do they have?

Aquaman can do more than just talk with fish! (2, Funny)

manual_overide (134872) | more than 9 years ago | (#10539080)

Scientists are speculating that it may have something to do with chicken estrogen left over in manure or perhaps even human hormones dumped in the river from sewage treatment plants.

I, for one, welcome our new fishman overlords!

Re:Aquaman can do more than just talk with fish! (1)

Goobermunch (771199) | more than 9 years ago | (#10540481)

Say, isn't Dunwich on the Potomac? Nah. --AC

That's nothing new (1)

OptimoosePrime (612749) | more than 9 years ago | (#10540865)

The male bass outside the Springfield nuclear plant have been producing eggs for some time now.

Bonus! (1)

wildsurf (535389) | more than 9 years ago | (#10541649)

More caviar for everyone!

They Dropped Us The Hormones (3, Funny)

boatboy (549643) | more than 9 years ago | (#10542142)

All your bass are belong to us.
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