Testing lagoonal sediments with early life stages of the copepod Acartia tonsa (Dana): An approach to assess sediment toxicity in the Venice Lagoon

Marco Picone*, Martina Bergamin, Eugenia Delaney, Annamaria Volpi Ghirardini, Kresten Ole Kusk

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    The early-life stages of development of the calanoid copepod Acartia tonsa from egg to copepodite I is proposed as an endpoint for assessing sediment toxicity by exposing newly released eggs directly onto the sediment-water interface. A preliminary study of 5 sediment samples collected in the lagoon of Venice highlighted that the larval development rate (LDR) and the early-life stages (ELS) mortality endpoints with A. tonsa are more sensitive than the standard amphipod mortality test; moreover LDR resulted in a more reliable endpoint than ELS mortality, due to the interference of the sediment with the recovery of unhatched eggs and dead larvae. The LDR data collected in a definitive study of 48 sediment samples from the Venice Lagoon has been analysed together with the preliminary data to evaluate the statistical performances of the bioassay (among replicate variance and minimum significant difference between samples and control) and to investigate the possible correlation with sediment chemistry and physical properties. The results showed that statistical performances of the LDR test with A. tonsa correspond with the outcomes of other tests applied to the sediment-water interface (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus embryotoxicity test), sediments (Neanthes arenaceodentata survival and growth test) and porewater (S. purpuratus); the LDR endpoint did, however, show a slightly higher variance as compared with other tests used in the Lagoon of Venice, such as 10-d amphipod lethality test and larval development with sea urchin and bivalves embryos. Sediment toxicity data highlighted the high sensitivity and the clear ability of the larval development to discriminate among sediments characterized by different levels of contamination. The data of the definitive study evidenced that inhibition of the larval development was not affected by grain-size and the organic carbon content of the sediment; in contrast, a strong correlation between inhibition of the larval development and the sediment concentrations of some metals (Cu, Hg, Pb, Zn), acid-volatile sulphides (AVS), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) was found. No correlation was found with DDTs, hexachlorobenzene and organotin compounds.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalEcotoxicology and Environmental Safety
    Issue number24
    Pages (from-to)217-227
    Number of pages11
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    • Pollution
    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
    • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
    • Ecotoxicology
    • Larval development
    • Planktonic larvae
    • Sediment-water interface
    • Acartia tonsa
    • Bivalvia
    • Calanoida
    • Copepoda
    • Echinoidea
    • Neanthes arenaceodentata
    • Strongylocentrotus purpuratus


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