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Ecotoxicology. 2013 Nov;22(9):1359-66. doi: 10.1007/s10646-013-1122-5. Epub 2013 Sep 6.

Effect of test duration and feeding on relative sensitivity of genetically distinct clades of Hyalella azteca.

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  • 1Illinois Natural History Survey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1816 S. Oak Street, Champaign, IL, 61820, USA, soucek@illinois.edu.


The amphipod Hyalella azteca is widely used in ecotoxicology laboratories for the assessment of chemical risks to aquatic environments, and it is a cryptic species complex with a number of genetically distinct strains found in wild populations. While it would be valuable to note differences in contaminant sensitivity among different strains collected from various field sites, those findings would be influenced by acclimation of the populations to local conditions. In addition, potential differences in metabolism or lipid storage among different strains may confound assessment of sensitivity in unfed acute toxicity tests. In the present study, our aim was to assess whether there are genetic differences in contaminant sensitivity among three cryptic provisional species of H. azteca. Therefore, we used organisms cultured under the same conditions, assessed their ability to survive for extended periods without food, and conducted fed and unfed acute toxicity tests with two anions (nitrate and chloride) whose toxicities are not expected to be altered by the addition of food. We found that the three genetically distinct clades of H. azteca had substantially different responses to starvation, and the presence/absence of food during acute toxicity tests had a strong role in determining the relative sensitivity of the three clades. In fed tests, where starvation was no longer a potential stressor, significant differences in sensitivity were still observed among the three clades. In light of these differences in sensitivity, we suggest that ecotoxicology laboratories consider using a provisional species in toxicity tests that is a regionally appropriate surrogate.

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