Metal contamination in harbours impacts life-history traits and metallothi-onein levels in snails.
Harbours with limited water exchange are hotspots of contaminant accumulation. Antifouling paints (AF) contribute to this accumulation by leaching biocides that may affect non-target species. In several leisure boat harbours and reference areas in the Baltic Sea, chronic exposure effects were evaluated using caging experiments with the snail Theodoxus fluviatilis. We analysed variations in ecologically relevant endpoints (mortality, growth and reproduction) in concert with variation in metallothionein-like proteins (MTLP) levels. The latter is a biomarker of exposure to metals, such as copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn), which are used in AF paints as active ingredient and stabilizer, respectively. In addition, environmental samples (water, sediment) were analysed for metal (Cu and Zn) and nutrient (total phosphorous and nitrogen) concentrations. All life-history endpoints were negatively affected by the exposure, with higher mortality, reduced growth and lower fecundity in the harbours compared to the reference sites. Metal concentrations were the key explanatory variables for all observed adverse effects, suggesting that metal-driven toxicity, which is likely to stem from AF paints, is a source of anthropogenic stress for biota in the harbours.
Passive dosing of triclosan in multi-generation tests with copepods – stable exposure concentrations and effects at the low µg L-1 range
Bacteria-Mediated Effects of Antibiotics on Daphnia Nutrition
The effects of short-term pH decrease on the reproductive output of the copepod Acartia bifilosa – a laboratory study
This laboratory study reports some reproductive responses of the copepod Acartia bifilosa to rapid variations in pH. The imposed changes mimic those that copepods could experience due to coastal upwelling, changed mixing conditions or vertical migration. We measured effects of low pH on egg production, hatching and early nauplii development (H-0: no effects on response variables between low and ambient pH). On treatment with low pH, we found positive effects on egg production rate and nauplii development time. The positive response to low pH could be an initial stress response or show that A. bifilosa is tolerant to the experimental pH values. The result suggests that A. bifilosa is adapted to pH changes as it performs daily migrations between the depths with differing pH. It could also be advantageous for population development if eggs hatch at high speed and so reduce the possibility that they will sink into anoxic and low pH waters.
Feeding of the Arctic ctenophore Mertensia ovum in the Baltic Sea: evidence of the use of microbial prey
Since its first reported appearance in the Baltic Sea in 2007, there has been a little research on the role of the Arctic ctenophore Mertensia ovum in this ecosystem. We provide results from the first feeding experiments of M. ovum from the northern Baltic Sea. Experiments were conducted with various prey types; picocyanobacteria Synechococcus bacillaris, ciliates Mesodinium rubrum, nauplii of mixed copepod species and copepodites of Eurytemora affinis. Molecular gut content analyses were also used to measure in situ feeding of M. ovum on the picocyanobacteria. The observed clearance rates on M. rubrum (< 9.0 mL predator(-1) h(-1)), and S. bacillaris (<7.5 mL predator(-1) h(-1)) were lower than those reported for similar-sized ctenophore species feeding on similar prey. Similarly, clearance rates of M. ovum on copepodites and copepod nauplii were close to zero, implying significantly lower predation on crustacean prey compared with other ctenophores. Overall, M. ovum predation rates were relatively low with a maximum daily consumption of 0.95 mu g C ind.(-1) day(-1) (similar to 15.8% of estimated predator carbon content). In addition, we examined the vertical distribution of M. ovum in relation to that of micro- and mesozooplankton and found greater overlap with potential microplankton prey than with mesozooplankton. Taken together, these results imply that in the Baltic Sea, M. ovum feed mainly on bacterio-and microplankton, thus potentially contributing to the coupling between the microbial loop and higher consumers in the pelagic food web.
Sucralose Induces Biochemical Responses in Daphnia magna
The intense artificial sweetener sucralose has no bioconcentration properties, and no adverse acute toxic effects have been observed in standard ecotoxicity tests, suggesting negligible environmental risk. However, significant feeding and behavioural alterations have been reported in non-standard tests using aquatic crustaceans, indicating possible sublethal effects. We hypothesized that these effects are related to alterations in acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and oxidative status in the exposed animals and investigated changes in AChE and oxidative biomarkers (oxygen radical absorbing capacity, ORAC, and lipid peroxidation, TBARS) in the crustacean Daphnia magna exposed to sucralose (0.0001–5 mg L−1). The sucralose concentration was a significant positive predictor for ORAC, TBARS and AChE in the daphnids. Moreover, the AChE response was linked to both oxidative biomarkers, with positive and negative relationships for TBARS and ORAC, respectively. These joint responses support our hypothesis and suggest that exposure to sucralose may induce neurological and oxidative mechanisms with potentially important consequences for animal behaviour and physiology.
Shifts in food quality for herbivorous consumer growth: multiple golden means in the life history
Consumer growth can be affected by imbalances between the nutrient content of the consumer and its food resource. Although ontogenetic-driven changes in animal composition are well documented, their potential consequences for the organism's sensitivity to food quality constraints have remained elusive. Here we show that the potential growth response of the copepod Mixodiaptomus laciniatus (as %RNA and RNA:DNA ratio) to the natural gradient of seston carbon (C) : nutrient ratio is unimodal and stage specific. Solution of the equation given by the first derivative function provided the optimum C : nutrient ratio for maximum stage-specific growth, which increased during ontogeny. The peakedness of the function indicated that animal vulnerability to suboptimal food quality decreased as juveniles reached adulthood. Consistent with these results, a field experiment demonstrated that potential consumer growth responded to variations in seston C: phosphorus ratio, and that early life stages were particularly vulnerable to suboptimal food quality.
Nucleic Acid Content in Crustacean Zooplankton: Bridging Metabolic and Stoichiometric Predictions
Metabolic and stoichiometric theories of ecology have provided broad complementary principles to understand ecosystem processes across different levels of biological organization. We tested several of their cornerstone hypotheses by measuring the nucleic acid (NA) and phosphorus (P) content of crustacean zooplankton species in 22 high mountain lakes (Sierra Nevada and the Pyrenees mountains, Spain). The P-allocation hypothesis (PAH) proposes that the genome size is smaller in cladocerans than in copepods as a result of selection for fast growth towards P-allocation from DNA to RNA under P limitation. Consistent with the PAH, the RNA: DNA ratio was > 8-fold higher in cladocerans than in copepods, although 'fast-growth' cladocerans did not always exhibit higher RNA and lower DNA contents in comparison to 'slow-growth' copepods. We also showed strong associations among growth rate, RNA, and total P content supporting the growth rate hypothesis, which predicts that fast-growing organisms have high P content because of the preferential allocation to P-rich ribosomal RNA. In addition, we found that ontogenetic variability in NA content of the copepod Mixodiaptomus laciniatus (intra-and interstage variability) was comparable to the interspecific variability across other zooplankton species. Further, according to the metabolic theory of ecology, temperature should enhance growth rate and hence RNA demands. RNA content in zooplankton was correlated with temperature, but the relationships were nutrient-dependent, with a positive correlation in nutrient-rich ecosystems and a negative one in those with scarce nutrients. Overall our results illustrate the mechanistic connections among organismal NA content, growth rate, nutrients and temperature, contributing to the conceptual unification of metabolic and stoichiometric theories.
Nitrogen fixed by cyanobacteria is utilized by deposit-feeders.
Benthic communities below the photic zone depend for food on allochthonous organic matter derived from seasonal phytoplankton blooms. In the Baltic Sea, the spring diatom bloom is considered the most important input of organic matter, whereas the contribution of the summer bloom dominated by diazotrophic cyanobacteria is less understood. The possible increase in cyanobacteria blooms as a consequence of eutrophication and climate change calls for evaluation of cyanobacteria effects on benthic community functioning and productivity. Here, we examine utilization of cyanobacterial nitrogen by deposit-feeding benthic macrofauna following a cyanobacteria bloom at three stations during two consecutive years and link these changes to isotopic niche and variations in body condition (assayed as C:N ratio) of the animals. Since nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria have delta15N close to -2, we expected the delta15N in the deposit-feeders to decrease after the bloom if their assimilation of cyanobacteria-derived nitrogen was substantial. We also expected the settled cyanobacteria with their associated microheterotrophic community and relatively high nitrogen content to increase the isotopic niche area, trophic diversity and dietary divergence between individuals (estimated as the nearest neighbour distance) in the benthic fauna after the bloom. The three surface-feeding species (Monoporeia affinis, Macoma balthica and Marenzelleria arctia) showed significantly lower delta15N values after the bloom, while the sub-surface feeder Pontoporeia femorata did not. The effect of the bloom on isotopic niche varied greatly between stations; populations which increased niche area after the bloom had better body condition than populations with reduced niche, regardless of species. Thus, cyanobacterial nitrogen is efficiently integrated into the benthic food webs in the Baltic, with likely consequences for their functioning, secondary production, transfer efficiency, trophic interactions, and intra- and interspecific competition.
Mesozooplankton Grazing on Picocyanobacteria in the Baltic Sea as Inferred from Molecular Diet Analysis
Our current knowledge on the microbial component of zooplankton diet is limited, and it is generally assumed that bacteria-sized prey is not directly consumed by most mesozooplankton grazers in the marine food webs. We questioned this assumption and conducted field and laboratory studies to examine picocyanobacteria contribution to the diets of Baltic Sea zooplankton, including copepods. First, qPCR targeting ITS-1 rDNA sequence of the picocyanobacteria Synechococcus spp. was used to examine picocyanobacterial DNA occurrence in the guts of Baltic zooplankton (copepods, cladocerans and rotifers). All field-collected zooplankton were found to consume picocyanobacteria in substantial quantities. In terms of Synechococcus quantity, the individual gut content was highest in cladocerans, whereas biomass-specific gut content was highest in rotifers and copepod nauplii. Moreover, the gut content in copepods was positively related to the picocyanobacteria abundance and negatively to the total phytoplankton abundance in the water column at the time of sampling. This indicates that increased availability of picocyanobacteria resulted in the increased intake of this prey and that copepods may rely more on picoplankton when food in the preferred size range declines. Second, a feeding experiments with a laboratory reared copepod Acartia tonsa fed a mixture of the picocyanobacterium Synechococcus bacillaris and microalga Rhodomonas salina confirmed that copepods ingested Synechococcus, even when the alternative food was plentiful. Finally, palatability of the picocyanobacteria for A. tonsa was demonstrated using uptake of C-13 by the copepods as a proxy for carbon uptake in feeding experiment with C-13-labeled S. bacillaris. These findings suggest that, if abundant, picoplankton may become an important component of mesozooplankton diet, which needs to be accounted for in food web models and productivity assessments.