Acute (24-h) toxicity tests were used in this study to compare lethality responses in early life stages (glochidia) of six freshwater mussel species, Leptodea fragilis, U. imbecillis, Lampsilis cardium, Lampsilis siliquoidea, Megalonaias nervosa, and Ligumia subrostrata, and two standard test organisms, Ceriodaphnia dubia and Daphnia magna. Concentrations of carbaryl, copper, 4-nonylphenol, pentachlorophenol, permethrin, and 2,4-D were used in acute exposures to represent different chemical classes and modes of action. The relative sensitivities of species were evaluated by ranking their LC 50 values for each chemical. We used these ranks to determine the extent to which U. imbecillis (one of the most commonly used unionids in toxicity tests) was representative of the tolerances of other mussels. We also calculated geometric mean LC50s for the families Unionidae and Daphnidae. Rankings of these data were used to assess the extent to which Daphnidae can be used as surrogates for freshwater mussels relative to chemical sensitivity. While no single chemical elicited consistently high or low toxicity estimates, carbaryl and 2,4-D were generally the least toxic to all species tested. No species was always the most sensitive, and Daphnidae were generally protective of Unionidae. Utterbackia imbecillis, while often proposed as a standard unionid mussel test species, did not always qualify as a sufficient surrogate (i.e., a substitute organism that often elicits similar sensitivity responses to the same contaminant exposure) for other species of mussels, since it was usually one of the more tolerant species in our rankings. U. imbecillis should be used as a surrogate species only with this caution on its relative insensitivity. ?? 2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.