It has been demonstrated that the deposit-feeding oligochaete Limnodrilus hoffmeisteri inhabiting Foundry Cove (FC), a severely cadmium (Cd)-contaminated cove located on the Hudson River, New York, USA, has evolved resistance to Cd. In this study we investigate how this resistance influences Cd trophic transfer from this oligochaete to the grass shrimp Palaemonetes pugio. Cadmium-resistant worms collected from FC and nonresistant worms collected from an adjacent unpolluted site were investigated for differences in Cd tolerance, accumulation, subcellular distribution and bioavailability to shrimp. FC worms were more tolerant of Cd, surviving twice as long as worms from the unpolluted site during a toxicity bioassay. The 7 d concentration factor of Cd-resistant worms was 4 times greater than that of nonresistant worms (2020 vs 577). There were also differences between worm populations with respect to subcellular Cd distributions. Cd-resistant worms produced metallothionein-like proteins (MT) as well as metal-rich granules (MRG) for Cd storage and detoxification; nonresistant worms only produced MT. These differences in subcellular Cd distributions led to large differences in Cd bioavailability to shrimp; shrimp fed Cd-resistant worms absorbed 21% of the ingested Cd, while those fed nonresistant worms absorbed roughly 4 times that amount (~75%). These absorption efficiencies were in good agreement with the proportions of Cd bound to the worm's most biologically available subcellular fractions (i.e. the cytosol and organelles). Although Cd-resistant worms predominantly stored the toxic metal in biologically unavailable MRG, their increased accumulation of Cd would still result in substantial trophic transfer to shrimp because of the storage of Cd in the biologically available fractions. This work demonstrates that the evolution of Cd resistance can have profound implications for Cd bioavailability and cycling within aquatic ecosystems.
Additional publication details
Cadmium resistance in an oligochaete and its effect on cadmium trophic transfer to an omnivorous shrimp