Water and sediment toxicity assessment by use of behavioural responses of medicinal leeches.


Behaviour has been shown to be a sensitive indicator of chemically induced stress and pathology in aquatic organisms. However, ecotoxicological investigations on medicinal leech are restricted because of scarce leech resources in natural waters. We used artificially bred medicinal leech (Hirudo medicinalis L.) of two different ages: young (1-2 weeks old) and adult leeches (1 year old). Animals were exposed to: (1) waters of Lake Drukshiai-the cooler of Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, (2) sediments of the river Nemunas and (3) solution of heavy metal model mixture (HMMM). The following behavioural responses of leech were investigated: mobility (number of moving individuals within certain periods of time), avoidance response (number of individuals escaping the tested water or sediments) changes in body shape (contractions of some muscles, abnormal position of suckers) and feeding activity (longevity of attachment process, interruptions of feeding bouts, size of blood meal). Mobility of young leeches was increased in the tested waters of Lake Drukshiai, whereas adult leeches showed no changes of this index. Avoidance response as well as impaired feeding activity (prolonged attachment process or completely suppressed attachment reflex, decreased size of blood meal) was observed in young leeches exposed to the waters from Lake Drukshiai and in adult animals exposed to all three kind of trials mentioned above. Avoidance response and changes in mobility were recorded during the first hour of exposure to tested samples; therefore, these responses can be used as an express method for water and sediment pollution assessment. Impaired feeding activity was recorded after 1-3-week exposure: this response may be used in assessing a chronic toxicity of pollution. Medicinal leech, due to its sensitivity, simplicity of measured indices and ease of laboratory maintenance, can be used as a test organism in ecotoxicity studies.

Cite this paper

@article{Petrauskien2003WaterAS, title={Water and sediment toxicity assessment by use of behavioural responses of medicinal leeches.}, author={Laima Petrauskienė}, journal={Environment international}, year={2003}, volume={28 8}, pages={729-36} }