The relative sensitivity of sperm, eggs and embryos to copper in the blue mussel (Mytilus trossulus)
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Copper, an essential element, is toxic at elevated concentrations, and as a result of anthropogenic activities is becoming increasingly prevalent in marine environments. In this study, we examined the effects of copper on early life stages of the blue mussel, Mytilus trossulus. We assessed the impacts of increasing copper concentrations on embryo development, egg viability, sperm fertilization capacity and, in particular, on sperm swimming speed using computer-assisted sperm analysis. Sensitivity to copper followed the pattern: embryos > sperm > eggs. A dramatic increase in abnormal embryo development was observed following exposure to copper concentrations exceeding 10 microg/L. Sperm swimming speeds decreased significantly when exposed to 100 microg/L of copper, but lower doses did not influence sperm swimming speed. Copper exposure (at any tested concentration) did not affect sperm flagellum length, or alter egg viability. Based on our results, we suggest that exposure of sperm to copper may interfere with mitochondrial activity, which reduces sperm swimming speed during the extended duration of sperm motility in blue mussel.