• Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon;
  • Bioavailability;
  • Soot;
  • Gut fluid;
  • Metabolism


The sorption of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to soot carbon in marine sediments has been hypothesized to reduce PAH bioavailability. This hypothesis was tested for eight species of marine benthic invertebrates (four polychaete worms, Clymenella torquata, Nereis virens, Cirriformia grandis, and Pectinaria gouldii, and four bivalve mollusks, Macoma balthica, Mulinia lateralis, Yoldia limatula, and Mya arenaria) that span a wide range of feeding behavior, ability to metabolize PAHs, and gut chemistry. Organisms were exposed for 20 d to two PAH-spiked sediments, one with soot and one without soot. The soot treatment generally resulted in lower bioaccumulation than the no soot treatment, though the differences between treatments were not significant for all species. All but one species accumulated significant PAH concentrations in their tissues from the soot treatment, indicating that soot-bound PAH cannot be dismissed as unavailable to infaunal benthic biota. Bioaccumulation factors were correlated negatively to both the organisms' ability to metabolize PAHs and the gut fluid contact angle, supporting the hypotheses that high PAH metabolism results in lower bioaccumulation factors and bioavailability of PAHs may be limited partially by PAH solubilization in the gut lumen. The variability in bioaccumulation due to the soot treatment was much less than the variability between species and between PAH analytes. Comparatively low bioaccumulation was observed in Nereis virens, a species commonly used in bioaccumulation tests. These results suggest that more effort is needed in understanding the salient characteristics of species present in a threatened environment, rather than focusing solely on the sediment geochemistry (e.g., soot and organic carbon content) and contaminant characteristics when predicting ecological risk of PAH-contaminated sediments.