Early developmental stages of fish are particularly sensitive to water pollution. Heavy metals may affect various developmental processes during the embryonic period, which results in a reduction of offspring quantity and quality. Waterborne metals may accumulate in the gonads of spawners and adversely affect gamete production and viability, or exert direct toxic influence upon developing embryos. The egg shell does not fully protect the embryo against metal penetration, particularly during the swelling phase; thus, metals may accumulate in the egg. The results depend on metal concentration and range from developmental disturbances to death of the embryo. Metals disturb various processes of fish embryonic development and affect the development rate. Early stages just after fertilization are particularly sensitive to metal intoxication, when most disturbances and the highest embryonic mortality occur. Waterborne metals also promote developmental anomalies during organogenesis! , including body malformations. Heavy metals often induce a delay in the hatching process, premature hatching, deformations and death of newly hatched larvae. All these disturbances result in reduced numbers and poor quality of the larvae, which show small body size, high frequency of malformations and reduced viability.
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