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Environ Toxicol Chem. 2017 Nov;36(11):3008-3018. doi: 10.1002/etc.3869. Epub 2017 Jul 10.

Standardized toxicity testing may underestimate ecotoxicity: Environmentally relevant food rations increase the toxicity of silver nanoparticles to Daphnia.

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Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, California, USA.
Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, California, USA.
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


Daphnia in the natural environment experience fluctuations in algal food supply, with periods when algal populations bloom and seasons when Daphnia have very little algal food. Standardized chronic toxicity tests, used for ecological risk assessment, dictate that Daphnia must be fed up to 400 times more food than they would experience in the natural environment (outside of algal blooms) for a toxicity test to be valid. This disconnect can lead to underestimating the toxicity of a contaminant. We followed the growth, reproduction, and survival of Daphnia exposed to 75 and 200 µg/L silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) at 4 food rations for up to 99 d and found that AgNP exposure at low, environmentally relevant food rations increased the toxicity of AgNPs. Exposure to AgNP at low food rations decreased the survival and/or reproduction of individuals, with potential consequences for Daphnia populations (based on calculated specific population growth rates). We also found tentative evidence that a sublethal concentration of AgNPs (75 µg/L) caused Daphnia to alter energy allocation away from reproduction and toward survival and growth. The present findings emphasize the need to consider resource availability, and not just exposure, in the environment when estimating the effect of a toxicant. Environ Toxicol Chem 2017;36:3008-3018.


Daphnia; Food availability; Freshwater toxicology; Nanotoxicology; Silver

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