Marine Biology

, Volume 147, Issue 6, pp 1305–1312 | Cite as

Comparisons of genotype-tolerance responses in populations of Hediste diversicolor (Polychaeta: Nereididae) exposed to copper stress

  • Massimiliano VirgilioEmail author
  • Stefano Maci
  • Marco Abbiati
Research Article


The analysis of genotypic shifts in field-exposed populations has been proposed as a tool for monitoring the environmental impacts of contaminants. Previous laboratory experiments showed the occurrence of genotypic shifts induced by copper exposure in samples of Hediste diversicolor from the Pialassa estuary (North Adriatic Sea, Italy). In order to test if genotype-tolerance responses observed were consistent at larger spatial scales, populations of H. diversicolor were sampled in three haphazardly chosen estuaries along the Italian coast (Comacchio, Pialassa, Serchio) and exposed to 0.48 mg l−1 Cu2+ under laboratory conditions. Survival analysis procedures were used to test for possible relationships between time-to-death and genotypes at three allozyme loci (ALD, FH, PGI). Genotype-tolerance responses observed at locus ALD were consistent among populations up to 2500 km distant, with genotype ALD 102/102 associated with the shortest survival times. Comparisons with previous laboratory experiments showed that responses to copper stress at locus ALD were also consistent in time, with genotypes ALD 102/102 and ALD 100/102 associated with higher 96 h mortality ratios. Results suggested the occurrence of stable relationships between genotypes at locus ALD and tolerance responses of H. diversicolor to copper stress. Conversely, genotype-tolerance responses at loci PGI and FH were not consistent either in space (among populations from the three estuaries) or in time (between laboratory experiments), being possibly affected by site-specific features of populations or stochastic factors. Results show that genotype-tolerance responses should be carefully verified at different spatial and temporal scales, before considering genotypic shifts among the possible tools for monitoring the effects of environmental stressors.


Large Spatial Scale Copper Stress Heterozygous Locus Copper Exposure Tolerance Response 
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C. Mugnai, A. Pasteris, F. Rossi, J. Tirindelli and T. Willis provided excellent assistance at different stages of the study. We wish to thank J. Bishop, F. Bulleri, K. Johannesson, F. Tinti, and the discussion group of the Experimental Ecology lab for their valuable comments on earlier drafts of this paper. The manuscript has benefited from the helpful comments of two anonymous reviewers. This paper was written under the EU funded research contract EVK3-CT-2001-00048 (EUMAR, The experiments comply with current Italian law.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Massimiliano Virgilio
    • 1
    Email author
  • Stefano Maci
    • 1
  • Marco Abbiati
    • 1
  1. 1.Centro Interdipartimentale di Ricerca per le Scienze Ambientali and Dipartimento di Biologia Evoluzionistica e SperimentaleUniversity of BolognaRavennaItaly

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