The toxicity of metals, whether isolated or in mixtures, involves changes in biochemical processes as well as in cell membranes, which may lead to deleterious short- and long-term effects on the affected organisms. Among metals, cadmium and mercury stand out due to their abundance in nature, frequent use for industrial activities and biological accumulation, with high levels of residence in trophic chains. Benthic communities are particularly prone to metal pollution since metals usually accumulate in sediments. The aim of this study was to evaluate the acute toxicity of mercury and cadmium, single and in mixture, to two native species of epibenthic oligochaetes: Allonais inaequalis and Dero furcatus. In order to assess the potential of these species as bioindicators, we compared their sensitivity with those of other internationally used species by applying the species sensitivity distribution approach. The 96h-LC50 of cadmium chloride was 627 and 364 μg L−1 for A. inaequalis and D. furcatus, respectively, evidencing that the latter species is almost twice as sensitive to this metal than A. inaequalis. For mercury chloride, the 96h-LC50 was 129 μg L−1 for A. inaequalis and 92 μg L−1 for D. furcatus. The sensitivities of these oligochaetes were superior or similar to that of other frequently used oligochaete test species such as Tubifex tubifex and Lumbriculus variegatus. The metal mixtures had synergism in general (D. furcatus) or at high doses only (A. inaequalis), implying a potentiation of their toxic effects when both metals co-occur in the environment. By comparing the derived toxicity values with concentrations of cadmium and mercury measured in the field, it can be concluded that aquatic organisms are likely to be at risk when exposed to the environmental relevant concentrations of cadmium and mercury here tested, especially when they are both present.
Ecotoxicology Metals Annelida Tropical species Species Sensitivity Distribution
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We thank CAPES (Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel) for the grant to the first author. This work was also supported by the Brazilian government through the Special Visiting Researcher program (MEC/MCTI/CAPES/CNPq/FAPs reference 402392/2013-2) and the Portuguese government (FCT) through a postdoc grant for the last author (SFRH/BPD/109199/ 2015) and the research unit UID/AMB/04085/2013 (CENSE).
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Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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