Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 5049
Title: From sediment bioassay to fish biomarker—connecting the dots using simple trophic relationships
Author: Casey A. Rice, Mark S. Myers, M. L. Willis, B. L. French, Edmundo Casillas
Publication Year: 2000
Journal: Marine Environmental Research
Volume: 50
Issue: 1-5
Pages: 527-533

Two common problems in applying and interpreting invertebrate bioassays and fish biomarkers in sediment toxicology are the wide gap between significant effects concentrations determined by these two approaches, and a general lack of ecological context.  We have devised an exposure system that is able to reconcile much of the disparity between invertebrate bioassay and fish biomarker results by incorporating realistic ecological processes based on deposit feeding and predator–prey interactions.  This system relates the disturbance of interest (sediment contamination) to biologically meaningful effects in a resource of interest (marine flatfish) via a realistic contaminant vector (a deposit-feeding polychaete worm).  In this pilot study, polychaetes (Armandia brevis) were exposed for 28 days to clean sediments supplemented with benzo(a)pyrene (BaP), para–para dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (pp′DDE), Aroclor 1254, or field sediments collected from two sites in Puget Sound, Washington, contaminated predominantly with polcyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) or chlorinated compounds.  Exposed worms were then fed live to juvenile English sole (Pleuronectes vetulus) for 10 or 12 days.  At the end of the exposure period, fish were measured for length and weight, sacrificed, and preserved for either routine histopathology and immunohistochemical analysis of cytochrome P450 1A induction, or 32P post-labeling determination of hepatic PAH–DNA adducts.  Growth of predatory flatfish was lower than reference in all but one of eight groups fed contaminant–exposed polychaetes; however, statistically significant reductions in growth were only observed in three of these eight groups, at least in part due to low statistical power.  Juvenile sole from all contaminant–exposed groups showed increased expression of CYP1A, and fish exposed to BaP–exposed worms showed clear evidence of hepatic PAH-DNA adducts.  This method allows the concurrent evaluation of sediment contamination at multiple biological and ecological levels.  These results indicate that sediments determined to be nontoxic by common invertebrate bioassays may have the potential to cause adverse effects at higher trophic levels. 

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