Establishing mussel behavior as a biomarker in ecotoxicology

Jason T. Hartmann, Sebastian Beggel, Karl Auerswald, Bernhard C. Stoeckle, Juergen Geist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations

Abstract

Most freshwater mussel species of the Unionoida are endangered, presenting a conservation issue as they are keystone species providing essential services for aquatic ecosystems. As filter feeders with limited mobility, mussels are highly susceptible to water pollution. Despite their exposure risk, mussels are underrepresented in standard ecotoxicological methods. This study aimed to demonstrate that mussel behavioral response to a chemical stressor is a suitable biomarker for the advancement of ecotoxicology methods that aids mussel conservation. Modern software and Hall sensor technology enabled mussel filtration behavior to be monitored real-time at very high resolution. With this technology, we present our method using Anodonta anatina and record their response to de-icing salt pollution. The experiment involved an environmentally relevant 'pulse-exposure' design simulating three subsequent inflow events. Three sublethal endpoints were investigated, Filtration Activity, Transition Frequency (number of changes from opened to closed, or vice versa) and Avoidance Behavior. The mussels presented a high variation in filtration behavior, behaving asynchronously. At environmentally relevant de-icing salt exposure scenarios, A. anatina behavior patterns were significantly affected. Treated mussels' Filtration Activity decreased during periods of very high and long de-icing salt exposure (p<0.001), however, increased during short de-icing salt exposure. Treated mussels' Transition Frequency increased during periods of very high and long de-icing salt exposure (p<0.001), which mirrored the Avoidance Behavior endpoint observed only by mussels under chemical stress. Characteristics of Avoidance Behavior were tighter shell closures with repeated and irregular shell movements which was significantly different to their undisturbed resting behavior (p<0.001). Additionally, we found that mussels were sensitive to a chemical stressor even when the mussel's valves were closed. Due to the effects of de-icing salt pollution on freshwater mussel behavior, we suggest better management practices for de-icing salt use be implemented. Our experimental method demonstrated that, with the application of current technologies, mussel behavioral response to a chemical stressor can be measured. The tested sublethal endpoints are suitable for mussel ecotoxicology studies. Avoidance Behavior proved to be a potentially suitable endpoint for calculating mussel behavior effect concentration. Therefore we recommend adult mussel behavior as a suitable biomarker for future ecotoxicological research. This method could be applied to other bivalve species and for physical and environmental stressors, such as particulate matter and temperature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-288
Number of pages10
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Volume170
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016

Keywords

  • Avoidance behavior
  • Bivalves
  • Hall sensors
  • NaCl
  • Sublethal endpoint
  • Unionoida

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