MEPS 321:167-181 (2006)  -  doi:10.3354/meps321167

Trophic transfer of trace metals from the polychaete worm Nereis diversicolor to the polychaete N. virens and the decapod crustacean Palaemonetes varians

P. S. Rainbow1,*, L. Poirier2, B. D. Smith1, K. V. Brix3,4, S. N. Luoma1, 5

1Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK
2Groupe SMAB, UPRES EA 2160, Laboratoire d’Ecotoxicologie, Université de Nantes, Pôle Mer et Littoral - BP 92208, 44322 Nantes Cedex 3, France
3EcoTox, 8963 Hampton Landing Drive E, Jacksonville, Florida 32256, USA
4Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Miami, Miami, Florida 33149, USA
5United States Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Road, Mail Stop 465, Menlo Park, California 94025, USA

ABSTRACT: Diet is an important exposure route for the uptake of trace metals by aquatic invertebrates, with trace metal trophic transfer depending on 2 stages — assimilation and subsequent accumulation by the predator. This study investigated the trophic transfer of trace metals from the sediment-dwelling polychaete worm Nereis diversicolor from metal-rich estuarine sediments in southwestern UK to 2 predators — another polychaete N. virens (Cu, Zn, Pb, Cd, Fe) and the decapod crustacean Palaemonetes varians (Cu, Zn, Pb, Cd, Fe, Ag, As, Mn). N. virens showed net accumulation of Cu, Zn, Pb and Cd from the prey; accumulation increased with increasing prey concentration, but a coefficient of trophic transfer decreased with increasing prey concentration, probably because a higher proportion of accumulated metal in the prey is bound in less trophically available (insoluble) detoxified forms. The trace metal accumulation patterns of P. varians apparently restricted significant net accumulation of metals from the diet of N. diversicolor to just Cd. There was significant mortality of the decapods fed on the diets of metal-rich worms. Metal-rich invertebrates that have accumulated metals from the rich historical store in the sediments of particular SW England estuaries can potentially pass these metals along food chains, with accumulation and total food chain transfer depending on the metal assimilation efficiencies and accumulation patterns of the animal at each trophic level. This trophic transfer may be significant enough to have ecotoxicological effects.

KEY WORDS: Trace metals · Trophic availability · Assimilation efficiency · Accumulation pattern · Nereis · Palaemonetes

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