Population Genetic Structure of Earthworms (Lumbricus rubellus) in Soils Contaminated by Heavy Metals

John D. Peles, William I. Towler, Sheldon I. Guttman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


The genetic structure of earthworm (Lumbricus rubellus) populations from plots (N = 3) contaminated by sewage sludge (containing Cd, Cu, Pb, Zn) and reference plots (N= 3) was compared. Earthworms (N = 30-40 per plot) were collected during May 2000 and electrophoretic analyses were used to assess genetic variation at three polymorphic loci (GPI, LAP, PGM). Allele and genotype frequencies for GPI and PGM differed significantly between sludge and reference populations. Sludge populations were characterized by a reduced frequency of the most common genotype and allele at these loci, and the presence of alleles not found in the reference population. Allele and genotype frequencies did not differ significantly among individual plots within the sludge or the reference population. These results suggest that certain alleles and genotypes may be more sensitive to the effects of heavy metals. Multi-locus heterozygosity was significantly higher in the sludge population compared to the reference population; the proportion of individuals heterozygous at two or more loci was more than 15% higher in the sludge population. Results demonstrate that measures of population genetic structure in earthworms may represent useful biological indicators for the assessment of impacted terrestrial habitats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)379-386
Number of pages8
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Toxicology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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