Original Articles

The effect of copper and zinc at neutral and acidic pH on the general haematology and osmoregulation of Oreochromis mossambicus

Published in: African Journal of Aquatic Science
Volume 27, issue 1, 2002 , pages: 61–84
DOI: 10.2989/16085914.2002.9626575
Author(s): G NusseyDepartment of Zoology, South Africa, J, HJ van VurenDepartment of Zoology, South Africa, HH du PreezDepartment of Zoology, South Africa


The objective of this study was to determine the effect of sublethal copper and zinc concentrations at a neutral and an acidic pH, on selected haematological parameters as well as on the total osmolality and electrolyte concentrations of Oreochromis mossambicus. In general, at neutral pH copper and zinc caused blood acidosis, increases in circulating white blood cell numbers, causing stimulation of the immune system, and a rapid release of red blood cells from haemopoietic tissue, as reflected in the decreases in mean corpuscular volume. Increases in red blood cells are attributed to an increase in the oxygen-carrying haemoglobin as an adaptation to altered respiratory homeostasis caused by copper and zinc. These increases are therefore a secondary reaction to the metals and not the result of direct stimulation of the haemopoietic tissue. In contrast, at an acidic pH copper and zinc concentrations usually caused blood alkalosis and decreases in white blood cell numbers, due to the bioconcentration of metals which blocks and suppresses the leucopoietic tissue. Decreases were also recorded in red blood cell counts, haemoglobin, haematocrit and mean corpuscular volume, which can be ascribed to anaemic and hypoxic conditions, gill damage and impaired osmoregulation.

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