, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp 153-166

First online:

The occurrence and localisation of heavy metals and glycogen in the earthwormsLumbricus rubellus andDendrobaena rubida from a heavy metal site

  • M. P. IrelandAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University College of Wales
  • , K. Sylvia RichardsAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, University of Keele

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The lead content of whole earthworms, highest in contaminated site specimens, was significantly higher inDendrobaena rubida thanLubricus rubellus and a species difference in zinc was also recorded. Selective feeding and differential absorption are discounted and a species difference in maximum tolerance to body lead is suggested. Copper was low in all specimens. Chloragocytes and intestinal tissue showed significantly higher lead levels in contaminated earthworms than in control material. Ultrastructurally, chlorgocytes from contaminated earthworms showed electron dense flecks associated with the chroragosome peripheries and within the debis vesicles. Very fine flecks occurred in the nuclei, but mitochondria and Golgi were indistinguishable from control material. Preliminary X-ray microanalysis of contaminated chloragocytes revealed lead and phosphorus. The deposits within the chloragocytes might represent unbound lead precipitated by phosphate buffer; flecks being absent from contaminated, citrate buffered material and from control material. The chloragosomes are proposed as possible sites for sequestered lead.

Chloragocyte and intestinal glycogen levels were significantly higher in control material where the chloragocyte cytoplasm was rich in α-glycogen rosettes, these being absent from lead contaminated cells. The glycogen-lead correlation suggests that the metabolism of contaminated chloragocytes is directed towards lead sequestration, though differing nutritional states cannot be ignored.