Short-term sediment toxicity tests that only measure effects on survival can be used to identify high levels of contamination but may not be able to identify marginally contaminated sediments. The objective of the present study was to develop a method for determining the potential sublethal effects of contaminants associated with sediment on the amphipod Hyalella azteca (e.g., reproduction). Exposures to sediment were started with 7- to 8-d-old amphipods. On day 28, amphipods were isolated from the sediment and placed in water-only chambers where reproduction was measured on day 35 and 42. Typically, amphipods were first in amplexus at about day 21 to 28 with release of the first brood between day 28 to 42. Endpoints measured included survival (day 28, 35, and 42), growth (as length and weight on day 28 and 42), and reproduction (number of young/female produced from day 28 to 42). This method was used to evaluate a formulated sediment and field-collected sediments with low to moderate concentrations of contaminants. Survival of amphipods in these sediments was typically >85% after the 28-d sediment exposures and the 14-d holding period in water to measure reproduction. Reproduction was more variable than growth; hence, more replicates might be needed to establish statistical differences among treatments. Previous studies have demonstrated that growth of H. azteca in sediment tests often provides unique information that can be used to discriminate toxic effects of exposure to contaminants. Either length or weight can be measured in sediment tests with H. azteca. However, additional statistical options are available if length is measured on individual amphipods, such as nested analysis of variance that can account for variance in length within replicates. Ongoing water-only studies testing select contaminants will provide additional data on the relative sensitivity and variability of sublethal endpoints in toxicity tests with H. azteca.
Additional publication details
Use of sublethal endpoints in sediment toxicity tests with the amphipod Hyalella azteca