Growth inhibition in early life-stage tests predicts full life-cycle toxicity effects of lead in the freshwater pulmonate snail, Lymnaea stagnalis

Aquat Toxicol. 2013 Mar 15;128-129:60-6. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2012.11.020. Epub 2012 Dec 7.


The freshwater pulmonate snail, Lymnaea stagnalis, is the most sensitive freshwater organism tested to date for several metals (Co, Cu, Pb, Ni) based on 28 d early life-stage (ELS) tests in which growth was the most sensitive endpoint. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has expressed concern that growth in 28 d ELS tests with mollusks may overpredict toxicity because of the potential for recovery in a full life-cycle (LC) test. Consequently, the USEPA only accepts the survival endpoint for these tests in establishing water quality criteria (WQC). To address this concern, the current study aimed to test the sensitivity of L. stagnalis to Pb in a 56 d full LC test evaluating survival, growth, reproductive and embryonic growth endpoints and compare the estimated effect levels to those established using the 28 d ELS test design. The most sensitive endpoints in this study were 28 d growth and 56 d egg mass production, both with a NOEC of <1.0 μg L(-1) and a LOEC of 1.0 μg L(-1), showing that the ELS growth endpoint is predictive of the 56 d reproduction endpoint. Snails exposed to 1.0 and 2.7 μg L(-1) Pb showed full and partial recovery from growth inhibition between 28 and 56 d. While this recovery supports the USEPA's concern about the 28 d growth endpoint; considering the reproductive lifespan of L. stagnalis and the recovery dose-response, we conclude that the 28 d growth endpoint will be within a factor of 3 of full LC endpoints. This is consistent with the level of precision previously determined for fish ELS tests, which the USEPA accepts for WQC derivation, and suggests that tests using 28 d ELS growth endpoint for L. stagnalis may be acceptable for inclusion in WQC derivation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aquatic Organisms / drug effects*
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / drug effects
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Fresh Water
  • Lead / chemistry
  • Lead / toxicity*
  • Lymnaea / drug effects*
  • Lymnaea / embryology
  • Lymnaea / growth & development
  • Reproduction / drug effects
  • Survival Analysis
  • Toxicity Tests / standards
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Lead