Aquatic organisms living in surface water experience contaminant exposure at different life stages. While some investigators have examined the influence of organism age on the toxicity of pollutants, the general assumption in toxicology has been that young organisms were more sensitive than older organisms. In fact, some standardized toxicity tests call for the use of organisms less than 24 h old. This research characterized the age sensitivity of the water flea Daphnia magna to copper, zinc, selenium, and arsenic. During 21-d toxicity tests, organisms were exposed to a single 12-h pulse of either 70 μg/L Cu, 750 μg/L Zn, 1,000 μg/L Se, or 5,000 μg/L As at different ages ranging from 3 h to 10 d old. Mortality and reproduction were compiled over 21 d. During the juvenile stage, mortality increased and cumulative reproduction decreased with age, respectively. However, mortality decreased and cumulative reproduction increased with age when organisms became adult. Peak sensitivity occurred in 4-d-old organisms exposed to Cu and Zn, while 2- to 3-d-old organisms were most sensitive to As and Se. Growth of D. magna over 21 d was not affected by the 12-h pulse of Cu, Zn, Se, or As given at any organism age. This indicates the recovery of the organisms after exposure termination.
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