Significant amounts of trace metals have been released into both nearshore and deep sea environments in recent years, resulting in increased concentrations that can be toxic to marine organisms. Trace metals can negatively affect external fertilization processes in marine broadcast spawners and may cause a reduction in fertilization success at elevated concentrations. Due to its sensitivity and ecological importance, fertilization success has been widely used as a toxicity endpoint in ecotoxicological testing, which is an important method of evaluating the toxicity of contaminants for management planning. Ecotoxicological data regarding fertilization success are available across the major marine phyla, but there remain uncertainties that impair our ability to confidently interpret and analyse these data. At present, the cellular and biochemical events underlying trace metal toxicity in external fertilization are not known. Metal behavior and speciation play an important role in bioavailability and toxicity but are often overlooked, and disparities in experimental designs between studies limit the degree to which results can be synthesised and compared to those of other relevant species. We reviewed all available literature covering cellular toxicity mechanisms, metal toxicities and speciation, and differences in methodologies between studies. We conclude that the concept of metal toxicity should be approached in a more holistic manner that involves elucidating toxicity mechanisms, improving the understanding of metal behavior and speciation on bioavailability and toxicity, and standardizing the fertilization assay methods among different groups of organisms. We identify opportunities to improve the fertilization assay that will allow robust critical and comparative analysis between species and their sensitivities to trace metals during external fertilization, and enable data to be more readily extrapolated to field conditions.
Hudspith, M, Reichelt-Brushett, A and Harrison, PL 2016, 'Factors affecting the toxicity of trace metals to fertilization success in broadcast spawning marine invertebrates: a review', Aquatic toxicology, vol. 184, pp. 1-13.
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