Age- and Sex-Related Variation in Sensitivity to the Pyrethroid Cypermethrin in the Marine Copepod Acartia tonsa Dana

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Acute effects of cypermethrin, a pesticide used to treat ectoparasite infestations of salmon, were assessed using the calanoid copepod Acartia tonsa. A. tonsa has been widely used for hazard assessment of chemicals in the marine environment using acute toxicity tests, but only with randomly selected adults, assuming a sex ratio of 1:1. The present study assesses the environmental hazard of cypermethrin by exposing nauplii and adult males and females, separately. Our results showed that the naupliar stages were 28 times more sensitive to cypermethrin than adults after 96 h of exposure, with LC50s of 0.005 μg L−1 and 0.142 μg L−1, respectively. Significant differences in sensitivity between sexes were only found during the first 24 h of exposure, with males being approximately twice as sensitive as females. The results of age-related variation in sensitivity are supported by studies with other species of copepods and toxicants, where the increased capacity of the adults for detoxification, the allometric differences in weight and size, and the molting process are given as explanations. Variation in sensitivity between sexes is discussed in terms of faster depuration rates in females through egg production and implications of feeding rate changes after 24 h of exposure. Our results suggested that standard toxicity test methods using A. tonsa are unsatisfactory because the most sensitive life stage is not included and sex-related differences in tolerance are not taken into account. We also found that cypermethrin caused significant mortality in Acartia at exposures concentrations from one to three orders of magnitudes lower than the recommended field treatment concentration for copepodic infestations.

Received: 27 April 2001/Accepted: 1 July 2001