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Aquat Toxicol. 2000 Sep 1;50(3):153-166.

The Semaphore crab, Heloecius cordiformis: bio-indication potential for heavy metals in estuarine systems.

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  • 1Institute for Coastal Resource Management, University of Technology, Sydney, Westbourne Street, Gore Hill, NSW 2065, Sydney, Australia


Although alterations at the organism level in decapod crustaceans on exposure to heavy metals have been evidenced in the laboratory, little examination of metal effects on morphology and population parameters have been explored in a field-based situation. Relationships between morphological parameters, population demography and heavy metal sediment loadings were examined in conjunction with the accumulation of metals in the Semaphore crab, Heloecius cordiformis, in the Port Jackson and Hawkesbury River estuaries, Sydney, Australia. H. cordiformis exhibited sexual dimorphism, with males having larger carapace width, carapace length, chelae length and total mass than females. Sexes were subsequently treated separately to assess morphological differences among locations. Locations that had greater proportions of females with purple chelae and less females in the population tended to have higher sediment metal levels. These relationships were maintained over time, and could be employed as population-level biological indicators of heavy metal stress. Copper and zinc were regulated in the hepatopancreas of H. cordiformis. Lead was accumulated in the hepatopancreas of H. cordiformis in proportion to sediment lead levels, suggesting the species is both an appropriate candidate for bio-indication of lead pollution, and Pb is the main metal linked with population level differences. Accumulation of lead varied between sexes, indicating that sexes must be monitored separately. Smaller males accumulated more lead than larger males, suggesting size is an important consideration for lead accumulation.

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