Cultivation of the heart urchin Echinocardium cordatum and validation of its use in marine toxicity testing for environmental risk assessment

C.A. Schipper, M. Dubbeldam, S.W. Feist, I.M.C.M. Rietjens, A.J. Murk

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17 Citations (Scopus)


To study environmental risk assessment, echinoderms provide a useful model for ecotoxicological testing. However, limited knowledge of the life history of field collected heart urchins is a problem and the use of cultured urchins has been investigated here. The present study describes a culture method for the heart urchin Echinocardium cordatum under controlled laboratory conditions, providing organisms with a low biological variation. Based on our optimized growth protocol both larvae and juveniles have a growth rate comparable to E. cordatum in the wild. The toxicological response of cultured and field-collected E. cordatum was compared in standard saltwater toxicity bioassays. Using ammonium chloride as a water-soluble reference toxicant, mean 96 h LC50 values for cultured heart urchins versus field collected animals were 37.4 ± 7.6 mg NH4+/l (n = 5) versus 22.5 ± 4.9 mg NH4+/l (n = 19), respectively. Additional toxicity experiments with tributyl tin (TBT) spiked sediments revealed 14d LC50 values of 1,242 (95% confidence interval 986¿1,564) and 964 (95% confidence interval 843¿1,102) µg Sn/kg dw respectively in cultured and field collected E. cordatum. From this it was concluded that cultured heart urchins are less sensitive to TBT than field collected E. cordatum. Furthermore in whole sediment toxicity tests, survival of cultured sea urchins was higher or at least similar to that of field collected E. cordatum. The increased sensitivity of field urchins compared to cultured urchins in various toxicity tests may be due to multiple environmental stressors reducing their overall performance. Overall it was demonstrated that the use of cultured E. cordatum provides a significant advance for urchin-based bioassays for marine environmental toxicity testing, resulting in a more homogeneous, vital population with experimental data displaying reduced variability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-18
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • paracentrotus-lividus echinodermata
  • sea-urchin
  • north-sea
  • corophium-volutator
  • growth
  • sediments
  • bioassays
  • echinoidea
  • organisms
  • amphipod

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