Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 24, Issue 11, pp 10510–10518 | Cite as

Using early life stages of marine animals to screen the toxicity of priority hazardous and noxious substances

  • Isabel Cunha
  • Tiago Torres
  • Helena Oliveira
  • Rosário Martins
  • Thomas McGowan
  • David Sheahan
  • Miguel Machado Santos
Research Article


This study provides toxicity values for early life stages (ELS) of two phylogenetically distinct marine animal taxa, the sea urchin (Paracentrotus lividus), a deuterostome invertebrate, and the turbot (Scophthalmus maximus), a vertebrate (teleost), when challenged by six hazardous and noxious substances (HNS): aniline, butyl acrylate, m-cresol, cyclohexylbenzene, hexane and trichloroethylene. The aim of the study was to provide preliminary information on toxic effects of representative and relevant priority HNS to assess the risk posed by spills to marine habitats and therefore improve preparedness and the response at the operational level. Selection criteria to include each compound in the study were (1) inclusion in the HASREP (2005) list; (2) presence on the priority list established by Neuparth et al. (2011); (3) paucity of toxicological data (TOXnet and ECOTOX) for marine organisms; (4) behaviour in the water according to the categories defined by the European Behaviour classification system (GESAMP 2002), by selecting compounds with different behaviours in water; and (5) physicochemical and toxicological properties, where available, in order to anticipate the most toxic compounds. Aniline and m-cresol were the most toxic compounds with no observed apical effect concentration (NOAEC) values for sea urchin ranging between 0.01 and 0.1 mg/L, followed by butyl acrylate and cyclohexylbenzene with NOAECs ranging between 0.1 and 1.0 mg/L and trichloroethylene with NOAEC values that were in the range between 1 and 10 mg/L, reflecting their behaviour in water, mostly vapour pressure, but also solubility and log Kow. Hexane was toxic only for turbot embryos, due to its neurotoxic effects, and not for sea urchin larvae, at concentrations in the range between 1 and 10 mg/L. The concentrations tested were of the same order of magnitude for both species, and it was observed that sea urchin embryos (length of the longest arm) are more sensitive than turbot eggs larvae (hatching and cumulative mortality rates) to the HNS tested (except hexane). For this specific compound, concentrations up to 70 mg/L were tested in sea urchin larvae and no effects were observed on the length of the larvae. Both tests were found to be complementary depending on behaviour in water and toxicity target of the compounds analysed.


Marine spill Hazardous and noxious substances (HNS) Paracentrotus lividus Scophthalmus maximus Early life stage (ELS) bioassays Standard European Behaviour Classification (SEBC) 



The present work was developed within the framework of the ARCOPOLplus project—Improving maritime safety and Atlantic Regions’ coastal pollution response through technology transfer, training & innovation (contract nr. 2011-1/150)— funded by the Atlantic Area Transnational Programme (Priority 2: Marine Environment and Renewable Energy) with support of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and ARCOPOL Platform. We also acknowledge the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) through the strategic project “UID/Multi/04423/2013”.

Supplementary material

11356_2017_8663_MOESM1_ESM.docx (25 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 24 kb)
11356_2017_8663_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (16 kb)
ESM 2 (XLSX 15 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research (CIMAR/CIIMAR)University of PortoPortoPortugal
  2. 2.Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS)Lowestoft LaboratoryLowestoftUK
  3. 3.Health and Environmental Research Center (CISA), Superior School of Health Technology of PortoPolytechnic Institute of PortoPortoPortugal
  4. 4.Department of Biology, Faculty of SciencesUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal

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