The Effect of Cadmium Chloride on the Biology of Gammarus pulex (Crustacea: Amphipoda)
Amer, Aisha Arhouma Ali
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Increased releases of cadmium to the aquatic environment have raised concern over the potential for adverse impacts on freshwater organisms in affected aquatic bodies. This thesis explored the responses of a common freshwater amphipod, Gammarus pulex (G. pulex) to sublethal concentrations of cadmium under different environmental conditions and at various stages of the lifestyle. Endpoints studied encompassed molecular, cellular, physiological and behavioural changes, to enable a comprehensive analysis of the effects of the organism. Exposure to sublethal concentrations of cadmium (Cd) (0.001, 0.005 and 0.01 mg Cd L–1) for 7 and 14 days, influenced the percent survival, induced lipid peroxidation and damaged DNA in haemolymph cells of G. pulex. These concentrations also reduced feeding and ventilation rates as well as the motility, in particular of the females, with increasing Cd concentration and time of exposure. Furthermore, Cd accumulation from water in the body tissues of the amphipods was lower than in their food, with increasing Cd concentrations. These results illustrate how concentrations of Cd below the Environmental Quality Standard for European waters can cause sublethal molecular and cellular damage after relatively short periods of exposure. Histopathological effects of Cd on the gills and hepatopancreas (mid-gut gland) were examined using light, scanning and transmission electron microscopy. Multiple effects were observed on the tissues and cell organelles including external alternations in the muscular fibres of the hepatopancreas, lysis of microvilli and morphological changes in mitochondria. Exposure to 0.01 mg Cd L–1 altered the epithelial layer of the gill, causing vacuolation and lysis across the whole gill structure. Mitochondria showed damage to the inner membrane, shortened cristae and swelling, with an increase in apoptosis at concentrations of 0.005 and 0.01 mg Cd L–1. Collectively, these results document the adverse effects of Cd on target organs at concentrations within the range found in freshwater bodies. An investigation of the effects of water hardness on bioaccumulation and toxicity showed that hardness of water inhibited Cd toxicity and protected the juveniles during long term exposures, without affecting growth rate and food consumption. Soft water reduced the rate of survival, growth rate and food consumption during chronic exposure to low Cd concentrations, and facilitated Cd accumulation in the body parts compared with juveniles exposed in hard water. The results show that water quality plays a vital role in reducing or increasing detrimental effects of low Cd concentrations on the early life stage of amphipods which are a source of food for many species in aquatic environments. Exposure to Cd led to an increase in metallothionein concentrations in the amphipods in both hard and soft water. It also caused disruption to ion/osmoregulation, which may represent one mechanism of compensation for the ions lost in the amphipods exposed to Cd in soft water. In conclusion, these results add to the body of evidence describing the sublethal toxicity of Cd, a priority pollutant, to a common freshwater sentinel species. These results are of relevance for future environmental management and remediation approaches, because they provide scientific data to help in assessing, interpreting and understanding the effects of the heavy metal Cd in freshwater environments.
Ministry of Libyan Higher Eduction
PhD in Biological Sciences