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J Environ Monit. 2010 Jan;12(1):143-58. doi: 10.1039/b912185d. Epub 2009 Oct 20.

Responses of two sentinel species (Hexagenia limbata--mayfly; Pyganodon grandis--bivalve) along spatial cadmium gradients in lakes and rivers in northwestern Québec.

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  • 1SEPAQ, Aquarium du Québec, 1675 avenue des Hôtels, Québec, QC, Canada G1W 4S3.


Specimens of the mayfly larva Hexagenia limbata and of the floater mussel Pyganodon grandis were sampled in rivers and lakes contaminated by trace metals in the Abitibi-James Bay region in northwestern Québec. Water samples were collected at each sampling site with in situ diffusion samplers and analyzed for major cations, anions and trace metals (Cd, Cu, Mn, Zn). Surficial sediment samples were also collected at each site and analyzed for Cd, Cu and Zn. In response to Cd contamination at river and lake sites, both sentinel organisms accumulated the metal and synthesized metallothionein (MT), a metal-binding protein synthesized by organisms as a defence mechanism against excess metals in the surrounding media. At the river sites, H. limbata unexpectedly maintained much higher concentrations of MT per unit of accumulated Cd than at the lake sites; this difference between lentic and lotic environments may reflect the response of the species to the more stressful hydrodynamic conditions that prevail in a river. The accumulation of Cd in the mayflies at lake and river sites decreased as a function of the ambient manganese concentration. We hypothesize that dissolved Mn protects against Cd bioaccumulation in H. limbata. The present results support the contention that one cannot extrapolate conclusions drawn from the use of a single sentinel species to a larger set of freshwater invertebrates--both the mayfly and the bivalve are promising biomonitors.

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