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Can mouth part deformities of Chironomus riparius serve as indicators for water and sediment pollution? A laboratory approach



The significance of chironomids mouthpart deformities as suitable indicators for pollutant contamination of natural waters and sediments has been investigated and discussed for several decades. Uncertainties still exist as further laboratory studies, with different pollutants and with the same experimental design are required.

Materials and methods

In this study, the effects of four substances (i.e., nickel chloride, chlorpyrifos, imidacloprid and thiacloprid) were tested on the mouthpart deformity rates and patterns in Chironomus riparius. These compounds were investigated either individually or in mixtures.

Results and discussion

No significant increase in the frequency of mouthpart deformities was found using different single substance treatments when compared to the controls. Consequently no concentration–effect relationships between substance concentration and deformity frequency were detected. In mixture experiments an increase in mouthpart deformities of C. riparius exposed to imidacloprid–thiacloprid mixtures was detected. This indicated that the effects of single substances and mixtures on mouthpart deformity frequency may differ considerably.


The findings in this study from different laboratory approaches in combination with the published literature questions the reliability of chironomids mouthpart deformities as indicators of freshwater and sediment contamination by toxic substances.

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The study was supported by the EU Integrated Project NoMiracle (Novel Methods for Integrated Risk assessment of Cumulative Stressors in Europe; http://nomiracle.jrc.it) contract No. 003956 under the EU-theme ‘Global Changes and Ecosystems’ topic ‘Development of risk assessment methodologies’, coordinated by Hans Løkke at NERI, DK-8600 Sikeborg, Denmark, granted to Almut Gerhardt, LimCo International.

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Correspondence to Miriam Langer-Jaesrich.

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Responsible editor: Klara Hilscherova

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Langer-Jaesrich, M., Köhler, H. & Gerhardt, A. Can mouth part deformities of Chironomus riparius serve as indicators for water and sediment pollution? A laboratory approach. J Soils Sediments 10, 414–422 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11368-010-0195-5

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  • Chironomids
  • Mixture effects
  • Mouthpart deformities
  • Pollutant indicator