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Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2004 Jan;46(1):81-9.

Differences in prey capture in grass shrimp, Palaemonetes pugio, collected along an environmental impact gradient.

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Center for Environmental Science, College of Staten Island, City University of New York, 6S-310, 2800 Victory Boulevard, Staten Island, New York 10314, USA.


The waterways and associated salt marshes along the western border of Staten Island, New York (Arthur Kill) have long been under environmental duress. Environmental threats include industrial and municipal discharges, oil spills, and possible leachate from landfills. These impacts are compounded due to the low flushing of this body of water. Grass shrimp, Palaemonetes pugio, inhabiting the Arthur Kill are, therefore, potentially at risk of exposure to metal and organic pollutants. Successful prey capture (of live brine shrimp, Artemia franciscana) was used to compare the relative health of shrimp collected from three sites along an environmental impact gradient. Study sites included a relatively unimpacted harbor (Great Kills Harbor, GK) and two creeks adjoining the Arthur Kill (Nassau Creek, NC, and Richmond Creek, RC). Shrimp originating from GK exhibited a rate of prey capture (6.3 prey h(-1)) that was about two times greater (p < 0.05) than that of shrimp originating from a creek behind a series of landfills (RC, 3.2 prey h(-1)). The rate of prey capture for shrimp collected from a creek impacted by historic smelting activities (NC) was intermediate (5.4 prey h(-1)). Laboratory studies with shrimp from a pristine site (Tuckerton, NJ) exposed to RC conditions (i.e., sediment and water) for eight weeks indicate that reduced prey capture can be induced in healthy shrimp. Finally, video analysis suggests that reduced prey capture in RC shrimp may not be the result of less effort, but rather the combination of (1) 80% fewer (p < 0.05) prey being captured with a lunge type of attack and (2) a greater reliance (p < 0.05) on a less efficient grab type of foraging behavior (64% success rate for RC versus 87% success rate for GK; p = 0.058). These results indicate that sublethal toxicity in environmentally impacted populations can occur and that prey capture may be used to assay the relative health of field specimens. Additionally, impaired prey capture may have important implications for the energy flow within impacted environments.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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