Partial Life-Cycle and Acute Toxicity of Perfluoroalkyl Acids to Freshwater Mussels


Freshwater mussels are among the most sensitive aquatic organisms to many contaminants and have complex life-cycles that include several distinct life stages with unique contaminant exposure pathways. Standard acute (24–96 h) and chronic (28 d) toxicity tests with free larva (glochidia) and juvenile mussels are effective at generating data on contaminant effects at two discrete life stages but do not incorporate effects on brooded glochidia. We developed a novel partial life-cycle assay that incorporates exposures to brooding adult female mussels and used this method in combination with acute toxicity tests to assess adverse effects of perfluoroctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluoroctanoic acid (PFOA) on freshwater mussels. Fatmucket (Lampsilis siliquoidea) were exposed to PFOS at two life stages: brooding glochidia (in marsupia) for 36 d and free glochidia in water for 24 h. In standard acute tests with glochidia (24–48 h exposures) and juveniles (48–96 h exposures) of fatmucket and black sandshell (Ligumia recta), glochidia were 8 to 25 times more sensitive than juveniles. Perfluoroctanesulfonic acid significantly reduced the duration of glochidia viability and reduced probability of metamorphosis at concentrations 3,000 times lower than the most sensitive acute endpoint (24-h EC50). The partial life-cycle test is adaptable to a variety of endpoints and research objectives and is useful for identifying adverse effects at contaminant concentrations below those required for an acute lethal response.



Document Type




perfluoroalkyl acids, perfluorinated compounds, Akaike’s information criteria, Unionidae

Publication Date


Journal Title

Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry