Why the stall? Using metabolomics to define the lack of upstream movement of invasive bigheaded carp in the Illinois river.
Bigheaded Carp have spread throughout the Mississippi River basin since the 1970s. Little has stopped the spread as carp have the ability to pass through locks and dams, and they are currently approaching the Great Lakes. However, the location of the leading edge in the Illinois River has stalled for over a decade, even though there is no barrier preventing further advancement towards the Great Lakes. Defining why carp are not moving towards the Great Lakes is important for predicting why they might advance in the future. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that anthropogenic contaminants in the Illinois River may be playing a role in preventing further upstream movement of Bigheaded Carp. Ninety three livers were collected from carp at several locations between May and October of 2018. Liver samples were analyzed using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry in a targeted metabolite profiling approach. Livers from carp at the leading edge had differences in energy use and metabolism, and suppression of protective mechanisms relative to downstream fish; differences were consistent across time. This body of work provides evidence that water quality is linked to carp movement in the Illinois River. As water quality in this region continues to improve, consideration of this impact on carp spread is essential to protect the Great Lakes.