The development of environmental guidelines in the Antarctic and subantarctic is essential, because expansion of research, tourism, and fishing is placing these regions at increasing risk of contamination. Data are currently insufficient to create the region-specific guidelines needed for the unique conditions in these areas. To develop the most appropriate environmental guidelines, data from the most sensitive life stages of a species should be included to ensure effective protection throughout its life cycle. It is generally accepted that early life stages are more sensitive to contaminants. We compared the toxicity of copper between juvenile and adult life stages of 4 subantarctic marine invertebrates using sublethal and lethal endpoints. For 2 of the species tested, juveniles were more sensitive than adults. (The 7-d median effect concentration [EC50] values for the gastropod Laevilittorina caliginosa were 79 μg/L at the juvenile stage and 125 μg/L at the adult; for the flatworm Obrimoposthia ohlini, values were 190 μg/L at the juvenile stage and 300 μg/L at the adult.) For the isopod Limnoria stephenseni, juveniles were either more sensitive or of equal sensitivity to adults (7-d EC50 values: juvenile 278 μg/L and adult 320 μg/L). In contrast, for the bivalve Gaimardia trapesina, adults appeared to be more sensitive than young adults (7-d EC50 values: juvenile 23 μg/L and adult < 10-20 μg/L). Although no consistent trend in the sensitivity of life history stages was observed, the present study contributes important information for the development of water quality guidelines in polar regions.
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