Donax denticulatus is a key mollusk for the ecology of sandy beaches, serving as a controller of organic matter, microorganisms, and as bioindicator of heavy metals pollution. The goal of this study was to characterize some ecological aspects of D. denticulatus and its relationship with the content of heavy metals in their tissue, in three beaches of the Caribbean coast of Colombia. The results showed the study populations were different in terms of morphological characteristics and density (Berrugas-Sucre < Cartagena-Bolívar < Riohacha-Guajira), but not in sexual proportion; although density was clearly related to beach occupancy by tourists. Analysis of metals revealed tissue concentrations varied depending on the location (Greater means: Hg = 0.018 ± 0.004 in Riohacha; Pb = 0.110 ± 0.060 in Berrugas and Cd = 0.040 ± 0.010 µg/g in Cartagena). No relationships were found between morphometric variables and heavy metals content. Principal components analysis highlighted Riohacha for presenting differences respecting to Bocagrande and Berrugas in terms of physicochemical water parameters such as pH, temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and conductivity. Results suggest tourism rather than environmental pollution could be a sensitive factor for biota survival in Caribbean beaches.
Keywords: Beaches; Cadmium; Lead; Mercury; Tourism.