, Volume 378, Issue 1-3, pp 199-213

Imposex in Nucella lapillus and intersex in Littorina littorea: interspecific comparison of two TBT-induced effects and their geographical uniformity

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Abstract

Two different tributyltin (TBT)-induced virilisation phenomena in prosobranch snails – intersex in Littorina littorea and imposex in Nucella lapillus – are compared in order to facilitate their simultaneous use in geographical large scale effect monitoring surveys. Imposex in dogwhelks is a more sensitive biomarker and should be used in areas that are only slightly or moderately contaminated with TBT (ambient TBT concentrations < 2.0 ng as Sn l-1). The assessment of intersex intensities in periwinkle populations has considerable advantages in areas with higher TBT concentrations and should be used also wherever dogwhelks are absent irrespective of the TBT exposure level. The intersex index (ISI) and vas deferens sequence (VDS) index are proposed as the most suited parameters for effect monitoring purposes. The geographical uniformity of intersex and imposex is analysed and proven for the coasts of Ireland, France, and Germany. A relative loss of TBT sensitivity in females can be found, but to a varying extent in both species. The implications of this result for biological TBT effect monitoring programmes are discussed in light of the fact that intersex and imposex have both been found to be irreversible. Because it is the objective of these programmes to assess current TBT contaminations and resulting biological effects, only relatively young specimens should be considered in the sampling strategy.