Author(s): Bellas J
The toxicity of mercury, copper, cadmium and chromium on sperm viability, fertilisation, embryogenesis and larval attachment of Ciona intestinalis was examined. Fertilisation rate (FR) showed a small decrease even at the highest metal concentration tested. The median effective concentrations (EC50) reducing rates of embryogenesis and larval attachment by 50% were 54 microg Hg/l (0.27 microM), 46 microg Cu/l (0.72 microM), 838 microg Cd/l (7.46 microM), 10,318 microg Cr/l (198 microM), and 35 microg Hg/l (0.18 microM), 34 microg Cu/l (0.54 microM) and 11,755 microg Cr/l (226 microM), respectively. Therefore, Hg is three times more toxic than Cu (on a molar basis), ca. 30 times more toxic than Cd and ca. 1000 times more toxic than Cr to early stages of C. intestinalis. Rates of larval attachment and embryogenesis were the most sensitive endpoints, although the latter is more advisable for routine assessment of seawater quality because of its greater simplicity. In addition to bivalves and sea-urchins, ascidian embryos can provide biological criteria for seawater quality standards taking into account the sensitivity of a chordate and contributing to the detection of harmful chemicals with no marked effect on the species currently in use in seawater quality bioassays.