Using oyster tissue toxicity as an indicator of disturbed environments
Crassostrea virginica (the Eastern or American oyster) bioaccumulates pollutants from the water column, and therefore, its tissues can be used as bioindicators of past and present estuarine health. In this pilot project, we decided to investigate whether its tissues would be a suitable medium for toxicity testing using tissues from a variety of southern Texas locations of known and suspected anthropogenically impacted and unimpacted areas. We also conducted toxicity tests on sediments adjacent to oyster reefs using standard protocols for sediment toxicity. We tested the toxicity of tissues and sediments on the luminescent bacteria Vibrio fischeri, whose bioassays are commonly referred to by the trade name Microtox®. Microtox tests are quick, relatively inexpensive and sensitive to a range of contaminants. Evidence from this preliminary study suggests that conducting toxicity tests on oyster tissues may predict localized contamination better than when conducting toxicity tests on subtidal sediment. The refinement of these methods to use oyster tissues to detect contamination may be especially useful for environmental impact studies and/or studies where rapid and inexpensive information is needed.
KeywordsOyster Toxicity Pollution Crassostrea virginica Microtox
The initial idea for this trial study came after seeing the work by Beth Falls and others from Ocean Research and Conservation Association (ORCA) in Ft. Pierce, FL. Oysters have been used as sentinel species for time series and disturbance monitoring research by this group. Paige Uehling was funded by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program (Grant No. DBI-1004903: SURF—Summer Undergraduate Research Focus) during the fieldwork and laboratory components of this study. Uehling was also a student at Bucknell University during this period. We thank Dr. Kim Withers for assisting Uehling with REU program logistics and support.
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