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Ionic regulation and shell mineralization in the bivalve Anodonta cygnea (swan mussel) following heavy-metal exposure

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Freshwater mussels are one of the most imperiled faunistic groups in the world and environmental exposure to toxic heavy metals, which result in deregulation of calcium absorption and deposition in the laboratory, may be a contributing factor in their decline. To address potential effects of heavy-metal exposure on calcium transport and metabolism in freshwater bivalves, adult Anodonta cygnea (L., 1758) were exposed to a sublethal concentration (1.0 × 10−6 mol/L) of essential (Zn2+ and Cu2+) or nonessential (Pb2+ and Cr3+) metal for 30 days in the laboratory. Inorganic composition of extrapallial, haemolymph, heart, and pericardium fluids, and kidney tissue, as well as shell morphology by scanning electron microscopy, were compared in treated and untreated mussels. Calcium levels in fluids varied after exposure to any of the metals investigated, although the magnitude and threshold of effect were metal- and compartment-specific. Ca2+ levels increased robustly in all fluids following exposure to Zn2+, Cu2+, or Cr3+, whereas levels decreased significantly in heart fluid alone following Pb2+ exposure (p < 0.05). In constrast to exposure to the other metals, Cu2+ revealed an interesting reverse-accumulation pattern, decreasing in the fluids but not in the kidney, where it clearly accumulates for excretion. In addition, whereas essential Cu2+ and Zn2+ are closely regulated, the nonessential metals Pb2+ and Cr3+ increase to very high levels. Drastic alterations in shell morphology, specifically the structure of border and inner pallial regions of the nacreous layer, were observed after Cu2+ or Cr3+ exposure. Collectively, data suggest that prolonged exposure to a sublethal concentration of these heavy metals can adversely affect compartmental calcium availability and shell composition in A. cygnea.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: February 24, 2012

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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