Seasonal profile of metal accumulation in the acanthocephalan Pomphorhynchus laevis : a valuable tool to study infection dynamics and implications for metal monitoring
Background A large number of studies demonstrated that acanthocephalans exhibit a high metal accumulation potential and thus can be used as sensitive accumulation indicators. However, similar to free-living bioindicators, a seasonal variation in metal concentrations in parasites might occur. Accordingly, the influence of seasonality has to be elucidated if parasites should be applied as sentinels. Methods In order to assess a possible seasonal profile of element concentrations, the concentrations of As, Cd, Co, Cu, Fe, Mn, Mo, Ni, Pb, V and Zn in the acanthocephalan Pomphorhynchus laevis and in its host barbel (Barbus barbus) were analysed in a seasonal manner (spring, summer and autumn) using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Results Five elements (As, Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn) were detected in significantly higher concentrations in the parasites compared to host muscle, intestine and liver. Their levels in P. laevis showed a clear seasonal pattern, while the concentrations in the fish tissues remained similar during the year. The highest concentrations in the parasites were found in autumn, followed by spring and summer. Evidence from the literature suggests that this profile coincides with the seasonality of acanthocephalan transmission, as their annual concentration profile reflected the mean individual weight pattern during the year. Parasite infrapopulations in autumn consisted mainly of young worms which are characterised by an accelerated metabolism and a higher surface to volume ratio resulting in higher element concentrations when compared to older worms which are assumed to slow down their metabolism and additionally excrete metals with their eggs. Conclusions Based on the available data from the present study and literature, a model is suggested, which visualises the accumulation kinetic of several elements under natural conditions. According to the element accumulation data the lifespan of P. laevis in barbel was roughly estimated to range between six and eight months.
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