Characterization of scale abnormalities in pinfish, Lagodon rhomboides, from Biscayne Bay, Florida

Jone Corrales, Laurie Beth Nye, Sean Baribeau, Nancy J. Gassman, Michael C. Schmale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Correlations between marine habitat degradation and the prevalence of abnormalities and diseases in populations can provide a starting point for understanding the effects of changes in environmental conditions on marine organisms. The present study characterized the features of scale disorientation (SD), a common morphological anomaly encountered in pinfish, Lagodon rhomboides, in Biscayne Bay, Florida (U.S.A.). Scale disorientation consisted of discrete patches of scales rotated dorsally or ventrally away from the normal scale position without any projection of the scales outwards from the body surface. The direction of scale growth within the patches varied from normal to a minor misalignment to a complete reversal of direction. The severity of SD, defined as the percentage of body surface area affected, varied from 1 to 34% with a mean of 9.3%. Affected fish monitored in the laboratory demonstrated a proportional growth of SD areas such that the percentage of body surface affected did not change as the fish grew. Scale disorientation was more prevalent in the northern region of the bay, an area known to be more contaminated. Scales from SD areas exhibited significantly abnormal morphology with larger average focus diameter, smaller size, more elongate shape and fewer radii relative to normal scales. Experimental removal of scales demonstrated that normal scales regrew in normal orientation and morphology while those from SD areas regrew in abnormal orientations and morphologies. Experiments in which fish were exposed to acute and chronic injuries indicated that these physical traumas were insufficient to directly induce formation of scale disorientations typical of those seen in the wild. Observations of pinfish in the laboratory revealed that SD areas can appear spontaneously in normal juvenile and adult fish. These new SD areas developed relatively rapidly, did not require prior scale loss and remained stable in size after first appearance. Although the etiology of SD remains unknown, the significant difference in prevalence of this syndrome between regions of Biscayne Bay having different levels of sediment contaminants suggests that environmental factors may be important in development of SD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-220
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironmental Biology of Fishes
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000


  • Deformity
  • Estuarine fish
  • Gross pathology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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