Send to

Choose Destination
Aquat Toxicol. 2006 Sep 12;79(3):213-25. Epub 2006 Jul 26.

Microcontaminant accumulation, physiological condition and bilateral asymmetry in zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) from clean and contaminated surface waters.

Author information

Laboratory for Ecophysiology, Biochemistry and Toxicology, Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171, 2020 Antwerp, Belgium.


Chemical and biological monitoring of pollution in the aquatic environment is essential to assess the quality of surface waters. Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) have been used extensively to monitor pollution in freshwater environments, especially in bioaccumulation studies, whereby pollutant levels in tissues have been used as a measure of exposure. However, there is a need for good biomarkers that reflect the impact of exposure to pollutants. Bilateral asymmetry, commonly used as a measure of developmental instability, has a high potential as a biomarker to monitor stress caused by pollution. Nevertheless, until recently, no studies have evaluated bilateral asymmetry as a biomarker in zebra mussels. Biomarkers related to the energy metabolism may give a good indication of the physiological cost of exposure to pollution. In this study, we investigated whether the physiological condition (energy reserves and condition indices) and bilateral asymmetry of shells of zebra mussels are potentially useful biomarkers to monitor the impact of micropollution, such as trace metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and di(p-chlorophenyl) dichloroethylene (p,p'-DDE) in the freshwater environment. Bilateral asymmetry of the zebra mussel shells was examined with respect to levels of pollutants accumulated in the mussels and compared to the physiological condition of the mussels. Levels of PCBs and several trace metals (especially Cd, Cu and Zn) were very high in four of the six sampling locations and in some locations the physiological condition of the mussels was significantly depressed. Nevertheless we did not find any relation (on individual or population level) with bilateral asymmetry of zebra mussel shells. Therefore our results suggest that bilateral asymmetry of zebra mussel shells is not a good measure for the impact of pollution in freshwater ecosystems. The energy reserves and condition indices, on the other hand, gave a valuable indication of the physiological condition of zebra mussels and are useful to monitor the impact of pollution if physiological and environmental factors are taken into account.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center