Localised sites in Antarctica are contaminated with mixtures of metals, yet the risk this contamination poses to the marine ecosystem is not well characterised. Recent research showed that two Antarctic marine microalgae have antagonistic responses to a mixture of five common metals (Koppel et al., 2018a). However, the metal accumulating potential and risk to secondary consumers through dietary exposure are still unknown. This study investigates cellular accumulation following exposure to a mixture of cadmium, copper, nickel, lead, and zinc for the Antarctic marine microalgae, Phaeocystis antarctica and Cryothecomonas armigera. In both microalgae, cellular cadmium, copper, and lead concentrations increased with increasing exposures while cellular nickel and zinc did not. For both microalgae, copper in the metal mixture drives inhibition of growth rate with R2 values > -0.84 for all cellular fractions in both species and the observed antagonism was likely caused by zinc competition, having significantly positive partial regressions. Metal accumulation to P. antarctica and C. armigera is likely to be toxic to consumer organisms, with low exposure concentrations resulting in cellular concentrations of 500 and 1400 x 10−18 mol Zn cell−1 and 160 and 320 x 10−18 mol Cu cell−1, respectively. Metal accumulation from mixtures in two Antarctic marine microalgae has the potential to cause dietary toxicity to secondary consumers in the Southern Ocean food web. Extra and intracellular partitioning shows that zinc is protective of copper toxicity at low effect concentrations.
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