Secondary vitellogenesis persists despite disrupted fecundity in amphipods maintained on metal-contaminated sediment: X-ray fluorescence assessment of oocyte metal content
Melita plumulosa is an epibenthic, detritivorous amphipod found in estuaries along the eastern coast of Australia. It has been utilized as a test organism in rapid ten to thirteen days reproduction toxicity tests for sediment quality assessment. The fecundity of females in the toxicity test has been found to be inhibited by exposure of the amphipods to contaminated sediments enriched with zinc and other metals. This study investigated the proposal that interference in vitellogenesis is the cause of reproductive toxicity of metals in crustaceans. Inspection of the ovaries from amphipods on day 6 of the test either from control or Zn/Pb/Cd/Cu-spiked sediment, that were nearing completion of vitellogenesis, showed that the females in all treatments were producing similar numbers of oocytes undergoing secondary vitellogenesis. The distribution of the Zn, Cu and Pb in the oocytes and ventral caeca of females was examined by X-ray fluorescence microscopy. Elemental mapping revealed a dense accumulation of Zn in primary oocytes and a uniform distribution of Zn and Cu in the secondary oocytes in all treatments. Zn and Cu were also observed to be uniformly distributed in the ventral caeca. Pb was not detected in either of these tissues. The apparent normal morphology and the typical number of oocytes undergoing secondary vitellogenesis suggest that vitellogenesis was not being disrupted by Pb displacing Zn in the metal-binding domain of vitellogenin in amphipods exposed to the contaminated sediment during the test. Alternative mechanisms for the reproductive toxicity of amphipods exposed for six days to metal-contaminated sediment are discussed.