Current recommended ecotoxicological tests with the parthenogenetic springtail Folsomia candida using standard OECD soil do not allow for continuous monitoring during the exposure period. Effects of chemicals cannot be determined until the end of the experiment (typically after 4 weeks), since the animals stay below the soil surface. In this study, F. candida were maintained on a plaster of Paris/graphite substrate for 7 weeks and were supplied with an aqueous suspension of yeast contaminated with Cd, Cu, Pb, and Zn as nitrate salts. Growth rate, time to first batch of eggs, quantity of food consumed, and the presence of graphite in the gut (a sign of avoidance of yeast) were all affected by metal contaminated diets. The relative toxicities of Cd:Cu:Pb:Zn in the yeast were 1.0:1.07:12.0:4.3, respectively (on a weight basis) with Cd being the most toxic. Internal body concentrations increased, and the concentration factor (metal concentration in F. candida/metal concentration in yeast) decreased with increasing metal exposure. In general, metals are much less toxic when added to the food of F. candida than when incorporated into soil in standard tests. It is suggested that Collembola have a greater tolerance of metals in the diet since they avoid contaminated food, and are able to excrete assimilated metals at moulting via exfoliation of the midgut epithelium where the elements are retained as part of a storage--detoxification system. The methodology described in this article allows effects on growth to be observed as early as 7 days after the beginning of the experiment.
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