Is metal accumulation in Pomphorhynchus laevis dependent on parasite sex or infrapopulation size?
Concentrations of the elements As, Cd, Co, Cu, Fe, Mn, Mo, Ni, Pb, Sn, V, Zn were analysed by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) in the acanthocephalan Pomphorhynchus laevis and its fish host Barbus barbus. A total of 27 barbels were collected from the Danube River in autumn 2006 close to the town Kozloduy (685 river kilometer) on the Bulgarian river bank. Fish were divided into 3 groups. According to their P. laevis infrapopulation size hosts were considered as heavily infected (>100 worms per fish) and lightly infected (<20 worms per fish). The third group was used to compare heavy metal concentrations between male and female P. laevis. The 5 elements As, Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn were detected in significantly higher concentrations in parasites compared to host tissues (muscle, intestine, liver). According to the calculated mean bioconcentration factors, 3 more elements (Co, Mn, V) showed usually higher concentrations in P. laevis. Comparisons between heavily and lightly infected fish revealed significant differences only for V with higher concentrations for the heavily infected group. Concerning sex-specific metal accumulation V and Zn showed significant differences (V, at P<0.05; Zn, at P=0.05), with higher levels of both metals in females of P. laevis. Our results suggest that - for the metals analysed - the size of the parasite infrapopulation plays no role in the degree of metal accumulation. Similarly, parasite sex seems not to be a crucial factor for metal accumulation in the parasites. Thus, for metal monitoring purposes there is no need to take these aspects into account, which makes the use of parasites as bioindicators more applicable.
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