Embryonic and/or larval stages of the leopard frog (Rana pipiens), domestic fowl (Gallus domesticus) and the goldfish (Carassiua auratus) were treated with cadmium chloride, mercuric chloride, lead chloride, zinc chloride and sodium arsenite. The principal objectives were (1) to determine the sensitivity of vertebrate embryos to certain metals which are of consequence in water pollution, and (2) to ascertain the suitalility of vertebrate embryos as bioassay organisms for monitoring metallic pollutants within water resources. Vertebrate embryos are found to be highly sensitive to the toxic effects of all the metals studied. Concentrations of mercury as low as 10 ppb, with continuous treatment, produced a 100% kill of frog embryos and a significant degree of lethality in chick embryos. Cadmium and lead also produced detectable levels of lethality and/or anomalous development when administered to chick embryos at concentrations of 10 ppb. At 0.5 ppm mercury and cadmium produced 100% lethality in populations of goldfish embryos treated for four days. Lead and zinc were less toxic to the latter, producing approximately 80% lethality under simitar conditions.
These results indicate that vertebrate embryos are substantially more sensitive to metallic pollutants than are adult forms, and that they may constitute a valuable tool for monitoring the quality of water resources.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
The work on which this report is based was supported in part by funds provided by the Office of Water Resources Research, United States Department of the Interior, as authorized under the Water Resources Research Act of 1964.
Birge, Wesley J. and Just, John J., "Sensitivity of Vertebrate Embryos to Heavy Metals as a Criterion of Water Quality" (1973). KWRRI Research Reports. 134.