MEPS 187:159-170 (1999)  -  doi:10.3354/meps187159

Sulphide-induced metal precipitation in the mantle edge of Macoma balthica (Bivalvia, Tellinidae) -- a means of detoxification

Reinhard Windoffer1,*, Andreas Jahn2, Frank Meyberg3, Jens Krieger1, Olav Giere1,**

1Universität Hamburg, Zoologisches Institut und Zoologisches Museum, Martin-Luther-King-Platz 3, 20146 Hamburg, Germany
2Institut für Meereskunde an der Universität Kiel, Abteilung Meereszoologie, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany
3Universität Hamburg, Institut für Anorganische und Angewandte Chemie, Martin-Luther-King-Platz 6, 20146 Hamburg, Germany
*Present address: Universität Mainz, Anatomisches Institut, Becherweg 13, 55099 Mainz, Germany
**Addressee for correspondence. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: The blackening of tissues or mucus of benthic animals from sulphidic environments is a remarkable phenomenon whose ecological interpretation is disputed. In the Baltic clam Macoma balthica the mantle edge turned black after sulphide exposure owing to numerous precipitates in the extracellular matrix underneath the epidermal cells. In the apical parts of these cells, similar precipitates were found, albeit in lower abundance. Elemental analyses showed that copper (214.7 µg g-1 ww [wet weight]) and sulphur (1328.6 µg g-1 ww) were the main components, with iron (311.2 µg g-1 ww) and zinc (112.7 µg g-1 ww) in lower concentration. Apparently, these precipitates become phagocytosed by amoebocytes and concentrated in haemocytic granules. This is interpreted as a pathway of removal from the mantle edge. On the basis of calculated diffusion rates (DHS- = 1.9 x 10-6 cm2 s-1), there is a sulphide influx of 61 nmol h-1 into the body of M. balthica. Even under conservative assumptions, this would lead to the binding of all the copper present in about 30 min. It is concluded that the process of sulphide precipitation can represent a temporarily effective pathway attenuating sulphide toxification.


KEY WORDS: Macoma balthica · Baltic Sea · Bivalves · Hydrogen sulphide · Diffusion · Detoxification · Anoxia · Heavy metals · Ultrastructure · Elemental analysis


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