Historical metal concentrations in lacustrine food webs revealed using fossil ephippia from Daphnia

B. Wyn, J. N. Sweetman, P. R. Leavitt, D. B. Donald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Metal contamination of freshwater ecosystems is increasingly prevalent due to anthropogenic activities such as metal smelting and fossil fuel combustion. While toxicological studies focus on aqueous metal concentrations that result in lethal or sublethal responses, currently the only method for reconstructing a lake's metal contamination history is through an examination of the sedimentary deposits. In this paper, we suggest that cladoceran diapausing eggs (ephippia), which are abundant in nature and accumulate maternally derived metals, can be used to measure historical variations in biologically relevant metals that derive from the water column (water, diet). Linear regressions of total metal content against ephippia density or mass were strong (R2 > 0.80, P < 0.04) and revealed that metals were incorporated into ephippia with little contamination from the sediment matrix. Comparison of metal concentrations in ephippia and bulk sediments from three lakes demonstrated that some metals associated with urban sources (Cd, Cr, Mo) were preferentially concentrated in ephippia, whereas concentrations of other metals indicating landscape erosion (Al, Ca, Fe, Mn) exhibited greater concentrations in bulk sediments than in diapausing eggs. Because historical changes in metals within fossils and bulk sediments were uncorrelated in most instances, past variation in the metal content of ephippia provided a unique history of food web exposure to metals in the water column.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)754-764
Number of pages11
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology

Cite this