Comparative sensitivity of sea urchin sperm bioassays to metals and pesticides

Paul A. Dinnel, Jeanne M. Link, Q. J. Stober, M. W. Letourneau, W. E. Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


A simple sperm/fertilization bioassay, primarily using sea urchin gametes, has been developed and used by a variety of laboratories. This assay was recently refined into a standard test and is now being used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others for toxicity testing in marine waters. One factor that has lagged behind the development of this assay is the comparison of its sensitivity to various common toxicants as compared to other bioassay systems and life stages of other marine organisms. The objective of this study was to compare the sensitivity of a standardized sea urchin sperm/fertilization assay to the responses of embryo, larval, and adult marine organisms to metals (Ag, Cd, Cu, Pb, Zn) and pesticides (DDT, Dieldrin, Endrin, Endosulfan) added to natural seawater. The results, although highly variable, generally showed that sperm/fertilization and embryo assays were quite sensitive to the metals tested, but that the larval and adult assays were more sensitive to the pesticides. These comparative data, together with other studies of complex effluents, show that the standardized sperm/ fertilization bioassay is an especially quick and useful tool for biomonitoring of marine waters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)748-755
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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