The effects of the widespread polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) fluoranthene on sediment-processing rates in the infaunal polychaete Capitella spp. were investigated by comparing five populations of this deposit-feeding species complex: Capitella sp. I from New York, USA; Capitella sp. M from Milos, Greece; Capitella sp. S from Sylt, Germany; and two unidentified Capitella populations from salmon farm sediments - Capitella population K from Kilmelford, Scotland and Capitella population C from Cranford, Ireland. Replicate worms from each strain were exposed to 0, 10, and 95 μg (g dry wt sediment)-1 fluoranthene (= μg/g fluoranthene) for a period of 16 days. Initial and final wet and dry weights (mg) of worms and worm-specific growth rates (WSGRs) were calculated. Sediment processing was measured as the sum of the total dry weight of pellets produced during the experiment, and we estimated size-specific processing rates (SSPRs) as a measure of sediment processed per mg worm dry weight per day. The five populations of Capitella spp. differed significantly in body size, WSGR, and sediment-processing rates. Capitella sp. I grew faster than all of the other populations. Capitella population C and Capitella population K from fish farm sediments, with the largest body lengths (up to 52.0 ± 27.2 mm), had the highest processing rates, whereas the small Capitella sp. S (up to 17.1 ± 5.6 mm) had the lowest. There were also significant differences in SSPR among populations with Capitella sp. I having a higher SSPR (about 12 × body wt/day) than Capitella population C (about 5 × body wt/day) and Capitella population K (3 × body wt/day). The fluoranthene concentrations used in the present study, while representing moderately to highly contaminated conditions, had only marginal effects on sediment-processing and growth rates of all of the Capitella populations examined. Processing of contaminated sediment by Capitella spp. may be important in the remediation of PAH-contaminated sediment.
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Acknowledgements This study was supported by the Dirección General de Apoyo al Personal Académico, UNAM, Mexico and by a grant from the Danish Natural Science Research Council, No. 9700248 to V.F., and the Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling, Scotland (through a grant to D.B.). We wish to thank L. Maarup for her help with fluoranthene extraction and HPLC analysis. Collection of samples from the salmon farms was possible thanks to the companies Hydro Seafood Fanad (Mulroy Bay, County Donegal, Ireland) and Kames Fish Farming LTD (Kilmelford, Oban Argyll, Scotland). We are also grateful to G. Vonhoegen, R. Hassan, and D. Riddell for their support during field sampling. The experiments comply with the current laws of Denmark.