Resistance of Eisenia fetida (Oligochaeta) to cadmium after long-term exposure
The reliance on earthworms as test organisms in risk assessment studies of polluted environments raises the question whether they can evolve resistance, e.g., by adaptation to specific toxicants. Protection criteria may be biased if sensitivity data from adapted populations are used. Increased resistance to the heavy metal cadmium has not yet been determined for terrestrial Oligochaeta. Eisenia fetida was exposed to a sublethal concentration of cadmium sulfate for more than 10 generations. Clitellate worms from this culture were used in experiments to determine the extent of possible tolerance for the heavy metal. Preexposed animals as well as worms with no previous history of exposure to cadmium were exposed to a control substrate without cadmium and also to two substrates with 600 and 1200 μg g-1 cadmium. Changes in biomass, cocoon production, and hatching success were monitored. The results obtained indicated that in both substrates in which cadmium was present the preexposed worms performed better than the unexposed worms with respect to growth rate but not reproductively. In the substrate without cadmium the preexposed worms exhibited signs of poisoning after a few weeks. Preexposed and unexposed worms were also exposed to concentrations of 1500 to 4000 μg g-1 cadmium sulfate in an artisol medium for a period of 2 weeks. The preexposed worms survived higher concentrations of cadmium than the unexposed group and some specimens from the unexposed group had a gross increase in body fluids. It is concluded that worms with a long-term history of exposure to the metal developed resistance to cadmium.