Comparison of the sensitivity of three nematode species to copper and their utility in aquatic and soil toxicity tests



Nematodes are useful organisms for aquatic and soil toxicity testing because of their abundance and diversity as well as their ease of culturing and maintenance in the laboratory. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has been used extensively in toxicity testing, but its sensitivity to metal exposures in relation to other nematodes remains unclear. In this study, we compare the sensitivity and ease of use of two other rhabditid nematodes, Panagrellus redivivus and Pristionchus pacificus, to C. elegans. Toxicity endpoints were chosen to investigate the effects of Cu on the survival of these nematodes after soil exposures and on the survival, reproduction, movement, and feeding behavior of nematodes after exposures in aquatic medium. In all lethality testing, P. pacificus was the most sensitive, C. elegans exhibited intermediate sensitivity, and P. redivivus was the least sensitive. Reproduction and movement of C. elegans and reproduction of P. pacificus were decreased 50% by similar concentrations of Cu (EC50s ∼2 mg/L), but P. pacificus movement was less sensitive to Cu exposures (EC50 = 8 mg/L). Although all nematodes may be useful in lethality assays, using P. redivivus in toxicity tests is complicated by the presence of two sexes and difficulties in obtaining age-synchronized cultures. Pristionchus pacificus is an ideal acute toxicity-testing organism because of its sensitivity and ease of culturing. However, C. elegans appears to be more sensitive and therefore most useful in behavioral assays. Future studies of the relative sensitivities of nematodes in toxicity testing should continue to investigate additional toxicants, nematode species, and quantifications of sublethal effects after soil exposures.