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    Use of Heliophrya sp., a Sessile Suctorian Protozoon, as a Biomonitor of Urban Runoff

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    Heliophrya sp. readily attaches to artificial substrates, is convenient for manipulation in the lab or field, and survives on a monthly feeding of ciliates. The methods for comparing the response of Heliophrya and Daphnia pulex (used as a reference biomonitor) in field and laboratory toxicity studies are described. Plastic petri dishes with 20 Heliophrya in replicates were placed at three stations along a tributary (Hickey Run) of the Anacostia River that received chronic oil pollution. One station in a tributary of Hickey Run with minimal pollution was considered the control. Oil concentrations in field and laboratory water samples were determined using gas chromatography and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. The dominant aromatic hydrocarbons were ethyl and methyl benzenes, ethyl and methyl napthalenes, indenes, biphenyls, and phenanthrenes. The dominant n-alkanes fell in the C7 to C22 range.

    In a 48-h field study, death of Heliophrya at the polluted stations in Hickey Run was not significantly greater than at the control station in the tributary. Daphnia pulex was eliminated at all three polluted stations, but had a mean survival of 80% (s = 14.1) at the control station. A 48-h lab study using dilutions from the most polluted station produced a similar mortality response for Heliophrya. In the 48-h lab study, the Daphnia LC50 was 786 ppb of total hydrocarbons. Following anhydrobiosis (survival after a period of drying), Heliophrya were more susceptible to hydrocarbons, suggesting two levels of sensitivity for the same organism. Heliophrya exposed for seven days in the field had estimated LC50s of 1.0 ppm for aromatic and 28.9 ppm for total hydrocarbon concentrations. Other protozoa, including ciliates, and micrometazoa were present in the field study waters. Based on the literature, Heliophrya appeared to be as sensitive as golden shiners (Notemigonus chrysoleucus), fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas), and protozoa, like Tetrahymena sp. However, these results indicate it is less sensitive to oil polluted runoff than Daphnia pulex. Like Daphnia, Heliophrya is small and easy to culture and handle. Heliophrya provides a companion biomonitor for Daphnia in field and laboratory studies, with Daphnia the acute time span biomonitor and Heliophrya the biomonitor for chronic studies. The ability of Heliophrya to permanently attach to a substratum, starve for up to a month, and resist physical damage supports its use as a companion biomonitor to the more sensitive Daphnia.


    aquatic toxicology, Heliophrya, suctoria, protozoa, Daphnia pulex, biomonitor, oil pollution, hydrocarbons

    Author Information:

    Sayre, PG
    Ph. D. fellow and assistant professor, Georgetown University, Washington, DC,

    Food and Drug Administration, Washington, DC,

    Spoon, DM
    Ph. D. fellow and assistant professor, Georgetown University, Washington, DC,

    Loveland, DG
    Biologist, District of Columbia Water Hygiene Branch, Washington, DC,

    Committee/Subcommittee: E47.10

    DOI: 10.1520/STP29021S