Effects of Whole‐Lake Additions of Ethynylestradiol on Leech Populations
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Leeches are widespread, found in many freshwater habitats, and have diverse dietary habits. Despite their close phylogenetic relationships to Mollusca, a phylum with species affected by exogenous estrogens, it is unclear whether Hirudinea may also be impacted. A whole-lake experiment was done at the Experimental Lakes Area in Ontario, Canada, to assess whether 17α-ethynylestradiol (EE2) affected fishes and other species. Herein, we examined whether EE2 impacted leech community composition, species abundance, growth rates, gonad size, and cocoon production, when compared with reference lakes using a before-after-control-impact design. Each month baited leech traps were set overnight in the littoral zone at 10 sites around experimental Lake 260 and 2 reference lakes, and individuals were identified, weighed, and measured. Male and female organs of common species Haemopis marmorata were measured. Across all lakes, 9 species representing 3 families were collected. There were no apparent effects of EE2 on numbers, species richness, or community composition; however, condition in 1 of 5 species increased significantly after EE2 exposures. Total gonadosomatic index (GSI) and the GSI for all male or all female organs combined for H. marmorata were not affected by EE2 additions. However, some individual reproductive organs including relative sperm sac length (+), relative epididymis weight (-), relative vaginal bulb length (+), and relative ovisac + albumen gland length (+) changed after EE2 additions. Finally, whereas overall cocoon production was similar, it occurred earlier in the EE2-amended lake. In summary, few individual through community measures of leeches responded to low ng/L concentrations of EE2, suggesting that Hirudinea are less sensitive to this endocrine disruptor than other invertebrates and vertebrates. Environ Toxicol Chem 2020;39:1608-1619. © 2020 SETAC.
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