This investigation sought to assess the biological responses to Pb along a simplified four-level food chain, from the primary producer, the microalgae Tetraselmis suecica, grown in a control medium with < 1 µg/L of Pb and exposed to a sublethal dose (20 µg/L of Pb) and used as the base of a simulated food chain, through the primary-, secondary-, and tertiary-level consumers, namely, the brine shrimp, Artemia franciscana; the white-leg shrimp, Litopenaeus vannamei; and the grunt fish, Haemulon scudderi, respectively. Growth of Pb-exposed T. suecica was 40% lower than that of the control cultures, and survival of A. franciscana fed this diet was 25 to 30% lower than the control. No differences in the growth rates of Pb-exposed and control shrimp and fish and no gross morphological changes were evident in the exposed specimens. However, the exposed shrimp and fish had 20 and 15% higher mortalities than their controls, respectively. In addition, behavioral alterations were observed in exposed shrimp and fish, including reduction in food consumption or cessation of feeding, breathing air out of the water, reduction of motility, and erratic swimming. The negative correlation between Pb concentration in whole body of shrimp and fish and Fulton's condition factor suggested also that the exposed organisms were stressed because of Pb accumulation. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2011; 30:1611–1617. © 2011 SETAC
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