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Acute toxicity of zinc and arsenic to the warmwater aquatic oligochaete Branchiura sowerbyi as compared to its coldwater counterpart Tubifex tubifex (Annelida, Clitellata)

  • Sediments, Sec 4 • Sediment-Ecology Interactions • Research Article
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This study aimed at evaluating the acute effects of arsenic and zinc to the warmwater aquatic oligochaete Branchiura sowerbyi. Relative sensitivity with the coldwater species Tubifex tubifex was compared. Implications for the use of B. sowerbyi in the risk assessment of sediments in the tropics are discussed.

Materials and methods

Water-only (96 h) and sediment (14 days) toxicity tests were conducted with both species evaluating a concentration series of arsenic and zinc. The tests were conducted considering the environmental conditions in the natural habitat of T. tubifex (predominantly temperate) and B. sowerbyi (predominantly tropical). Both lethal and sublethal endpoints (autotomy of the posterior body parts, abnormal behavior and appearance) were determined in the tests. The lethal (LC10 and LC50) and effect (EC10 and EC50) concentrations were also determined to assess metal sensitivity for both species.

Results and discussion

Both test species were more sensitive to Zn than As in water-only tests, which is in agreement with previous studies evaluating the toxicity of these metals to aquatic oligochaetes. Sublethal effects were generally noted at concentrations lower than those leading to mortality. The warmwater oligochaete B. sowerbyi was more sensitive to both metals tested than the coldwater species T. tubifex.


Study findings support the need for using indigenous tropical species in risk assessments in the tropics. In addition, sublethal effect parameters should be included in toxicity testing with aquatic oligochaetes.

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We would like to thank the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CPNq) and the Coordination of Higher Education Personnel Improvement (CAPES) from the Brazilian Government for the scholarships granted (CNPq: 140771/2010-7; CAPES: PDSE 9805/11-7). This work was possible thanks to the support from the Education and Science Ministry research project (MEC CGL2008-04502/BOS) and from the Basque Government (IT-405-10). We gratefully acknowledge Dr. Juan Carlos Raposo from the Analytical Services of SGIker (UPV/EHU), Beatriz Arce from Analytical Services of Sosprocan Unit (University of Cantabria), Dr. Maria Olímpia de Oliveira Resende and Msc. Ramom Rachid Nunes, from the Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry (IQSC, São Paulo University), for their technical assistance provided, and to Dr. Pilar Rodriguez for the critical review made, improving the quality of this manuscript. Dr. L. Méndez-Fernández was supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from the University of the Basque Country.

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Correspondence to Haroldo Lobo.

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Lobo, H., Méndez-Fernández, L., Martínez-Madrid, M. et al. Acute toxicity of zinc and arsenic to the warmwater aquatic oligochaete Branchiura sowerbyi as compared to its coldwater counterpart Tubifex tubifex (Annelida, Clitellata). J Soils Sediments 16, 2766–2774 (2016).

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