Oganic matter (OM) input to marine sediments varies seasonally both in quantity and quality. Because sedimentary OM (SOM) constitutes food for many benthic organisms, its properties should affect the dietary uptake of sediment-associated contaminants. We explored the effect of SOM quality/food value on short- and long-term pyrene accumulation in the mud snail (Hydrobia ulvae) and performed dual-tracer pulse-chase experiments to investigate the feeding mechanisms driving dietary pyrene uptake. The quality of the SOM was manipulated by enriching sediments either with high-quality microalgae or low-quality lignin, adding equal amounts of total organic carbon. Long- and short-term bioaccumulation increased with increasing SOM quality, as did pyrene ingestion rate (IRpyr), which also was affected by feeding history. By feeding selectively, snails concentrated pyrene 10-fold in ingested compared to ambient sediment, independent of SOM quality. Average pyrene absorption efficiency (AEpyr: ∼ 65%) varied inversely with SOM quality and IRpyr. Both AEpyr and gut passage time (α 1/IRpyr) agreed with theoretical models incorporating the time-dependence of absorption efficiency. Thus, SOM quality moderates dietary contaminant uptake in deposit feeders, and in H. ulvae, this occurs via OM-induced alterations of ingestion rate. Consequently, enhanced sediment-associated contaminant uptake is predicted for deposit feeders following phytoplankton blooms, principally because of OM quality-driven increases in the ingestion rate.
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