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Mar Environ Res. 2001 Aug;52(2):173-94.

Survival, growth, metallothionein and glycogen levels of Nucella lapillus (L.) exposed to subchronic cadmium stress: the influence of nutritional state and prey type.

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Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, UK.


Dogwhelks Nucella lapillus feed mainly on mussels and barnacles, and may experience periods of starvation. We report effects of nutritional state and prey type on the survival, growth, cadmium (Cd) accumulation, metallothionein (MT) induction and glycogen stores in N. lapillus exposed to Cd in water. Adult dogwhelks, with similar shell length (30.0+/-1.5 mm), were either starved or fed to satiation with barnacles Semibalanus balanoides, mussels Mytilus edulis or Cd-dosed M. edulis, and kept in filtered natural seawater (< 0.01 microg Cd 1(-1)) or Cd-contaminated (400 microg Cd 1(-1)) seawater for 80 days. Mortality and individual growth rate were determined. Cd, MT and glycogen were measured in different tissues. Prolonged starvation and exposure to Cd significantly reduced the survivorship of N. lapillus, but feeding could help dogwhelks to combat Cd toxicity and minimise mortality. Extended starvation also caused tissue wastage, leading to higher concentrations of Cd and MT in tissues, whereas fed animals increased in weight and had lower Cd and MT concentrations because of the tissue dilution effect. Prey type significantly affected growth rate of dogwhelks and indirectly influenced Cd accumulation, MT induction and glycogen stores. Eating mussels promoted better growth and higher glycogen reserves than eating barnacles. Individual growth rate decreased with increasing Cd accumulation. Cd-exposed survivors grew faster and consumed more than control animals, implying that these survivors may have better fitness and greater tolerance to Cd toxicity. The use of growth, condition index, MT and glycogen as biomarkers of environmental pollution are discussed. These results indicate a need to incorporate biological data including growth (or at least condition index) and prey type into biomonitoring programmes to allow sound interpretation.

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