Feeding inhibition in Corbicula fluminea (O.F. Muller, 1774) as an effect criterion to pollutant exposure: perspectives for ecotoxicity screening and refinement of chemical control.
Bivalves are commonly used in biomonitoring programs to track pollutants. Several features, including its filter-feeding abilities, cumulatively argue in favour of the use of the Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea) as a biosentinel and an ecotoxicological model. Filtration in bivalves is very sensitive to external stimuli and its control is dictated by regulation of the opening/closure of the valves, which may be used as an avoidance defence against contaminants. Here, we investigate the filter-feeding behaviour of the Asian clam as an endpoint for assessing exposure to pollutants, driven by two complementary goals: (i) to generate relevant and sensitive toxicological information based on the ability of C. fluminea to clear an algal suspension, using the invasive species as a surrogate for native bivalves; (ii) to gain insight on the potential of exploring this integrative response in the refinement of chemical control methods for this pest. Clearance rates and proportion of algae removed were measured using a simple and reproducible protocol. Despite some variation across individuals and size classes, 50-90% of food particles were generally removed within 60-120 min by clams larger than 20 mm. Removal of algae was sensitive to an array of model contaminants with biocide potential, including fertilizers, pesticides, metals and salts: eight out of nine tested substances were detected at the µg l-1 or mg l-1 range and triggered valve closure, decreasing filter-feeding in a concentration-dependent manner. For most toxicants, a good agreement between mortality (96 h - LC50 within the range 0.4-5500 mg l-1) and feeding (2 h - IC50 within the range 0.005-2317 mg l-1) was observed, demonstrating that a 120-min assay can be used as a protective surrogate of acute toxicity. However, copper sulphate was very strongly avoided by the clams (IC50=5.3 µg l-1); on the contrary, dichlorvos (an organophosphate insecticide) did not cause feeding depression, either by being undetected by the clams' chemosensors and/or by interfering with the valve closure mechanism. Such an assay has a large potential as a simple screening tool for industry, environmental agencies and managers. The ability of dichlorvos to bypass the Asian clam's avoidance strategy puts it in the spotlight as a potential agent to be used alone or combined with others in eradication programs of this biofouler in closed or semi-closed industrial settings.