• Sublethal toxicity;
  • Spiked sediments;
  • Hormesis;
  • Copper


A new short life-cycle test methodology is presented to evaluate sublethal effects of contaminated sediments to the harpacticoid copepod species Nitocra spinipes. The method combines a 4-d survival-gravidity test with a 7-d development test. For water-only Cu exposures, the sensitivity of the development test endpoints were compared with tests using nonexposed gravid females to initiate the 7-d development test phase, and also with a multiple generation test comprising three successive phases: 9-d development; 21-d survival-gravidity; second-generation 9-d development. The results indicated that the development endpoints were the most sensitive, with median effective concentration (EC50) values of 95 µg Cu/L for nauplii/gravid female and 101 µg Cu/L copepodites/gravid female endpoints, followed by the gravidity (144 µg Cu/L) and survival (347 µg Cu/L). The sensitivity of the short life-cycle test endpoints was similar to the multiple-generation test endpoints, and the shorter test had less variability in controls. The multiple-generation test showed a large amount of stimulation of reproduction and development at Cu concentrations of 50 to 100 µg/L. The suitability of the short life-cycle test for assessing sediment toxicity was demonstrated using Cu-spiked and naturally contaminated whole sediments. Although the small nauplii were more difficult to isolate from sediments, the small amounts of sediments used for the tests and the large effects of the contaminated sediments on nauplii and copepodite numbers resulted in significant differences to controls. For sediment exposures, the sensitivity of the endpoints was in the order development > gravidity > survival. The short life-cycle test was demonstrated to detect, within 11 d of exposure, similar levels of effects on reproduction and development to those detected using a 39-d multiple-generation exposure. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011; 30:1430–1439. © 2011 SETAC