Metal and bioessential element concentrations were measured in three species of 17-year periodical cicadas (Magicicada spp.) to determine how cicada tissue chemistry is affected by soil chemistry, measure the bioavailability of metals from both uncontaminated and lead-arsenate-pesticide contaminated soils, and assess the potential risks of observed metal contamination for wildlife. Periodical cicada nymphs feed on root xylem fluids for 13 or 17??years of underground development. The nymphs then emerge synchronously at high densities, before leaving their nymphal keratin exoskeleton and molting into their adult form. Cicadas are an important food source for birds and animals during emergence events, and influence nutrient cycles in woodland ecosystems. Nymphal exoskeletons and whole adult cicadas were sampled in Clarke and Frederick Counties, Virginia and Berkeley and Jefferson Counties, West Virginia during the Brood X emergence in May and June, 2004. Elements, such as Al, Fe, and Pb, are strongly enriched in the nymphal exoskeleton relative to the adult body; Cu and Zn are enriched in bodies. Concentrations of Fe and Pb, when normalized to relatively inert soil constituents such as Al and Ce, are similar in both the molt exoskeleton and their host soil, implying that passive assimilation through prolonged soil contact (adhesion or adsorption) might control these metal concentrations. Normalized concentrations of bioessential elements, such as S, P, K, Ca, Mn, Cu, Zn, and Mo, and chalcophile (sulfur-loving) elements, such as As, Se, and Au, indicate strong enrichment in cicada tissues relative to soil, implying selective absorption and retention by xylem fluids, the cicada nymphs themselves, or both. Element enrichment patterns in cicada tissues are similar to enrichment patterns observed in xylem fluids from tree roots. Chalcophile elements and heavy metals accumulate in keratin-rich tissues and may bind to sulfhydryl groups. Metal concentrations in the nymphal exoskeleton show a positive correlation with soil metal concentrations, with Au exhibiting particularly strong enrichment in the exoskeleton relative to soil concentrations. Metal concentrations in adult bodies do not correlate with soil chemistry. Bioessential elements S, Ca, Mn, Fe, and Zn differed by sex in adults, whereas Na, Mg, K, Ca, Mn, Fe, Zn, and As differed by species. Body concentrations of Ca differed by site conditions (orchard or reference setting). The high Pb contents of orchard soils contaminated by arsenical pesticide residues might inhibit Ca uptake by cicada nymphs. The adult cicadas contain concentrations of metals similar to, or less than, other invertebrates, such as earthworms. There does not appear to be a dietary threat to birds or other consumers of adult cicadas based on Maximum Tolerable Dietary Level (MTDL) Guidelines developed for agricultural animals.
Additional publication details
Influence of soil chemistry on metal and bioessential element concentrations in nymphal and adult periodical cicadas (Magicicada spp.)