Effects of copper exposure on the scope for growth of the clam Ruditapes decussatus from southern Portugal

P. Sobral, J. Widdows

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9 Citations (Scopus)


The clam Ruditapes decussatus L. was collected from Ria Formosa, Fare, southern Portugal, and exposed to a sublethal copper concentration of 0.01 mg 1-1 for 20 days. Physiological measurements, respiration rates, clearance rates and absorption efficiency, were undertaken initially and after 2, 5, 9, 14 and 20 days and used to calculate Scope for Growth. Copper accumulation rate was calculated through the analysis of copper in the tissues at the same sampling times. The experiment showed two phases. Initially, copper was rapidly accumulated (1.95 μg Cu g-1 dw day-1 in the first 48 h), clearance rates declined markedly (lowest value 13.5% of control) and respiration rates increased (116% of control), resulting in a rapid decline of Scope for Growth, which showed a negative value after 5 days, In the second phase, (from day 9 on), the rate of copper uptake declined to 0.55 μg Cu g-1 day-1 and physiological responses were more stable, After 20 days, copper concentration in the tissues was 38.4 μg Cu g-1 dw (bioconcentration factor 3840). Clearance rates were 50% of control rates and respiration rates were still high, 145% of control rates. Therefore, Scope for Growth and performance of the clams was still greatly affected (ca. 23% of the control values), indicating that though animals partially recovered through detoxifying mechanisms, excess copper caused sustained impairment of physiological functions. This experiment confirms that the physiological energetics approach and the integrated Scope for Growth measurement is a sensitive methodology to detect deviations from normal performance and assess stress at environmental realistic copper concentrations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)992-1000
Number of pages9
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1997


  • Copper accumulation
  • Physiological energetics
  • Portugal
  • Ruditapes decussatus
  • Scope for Growth
  • Sublethal exposure


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