The Akoya pearl oyster shell as an archival monitor of lead exposure

G. R. MacFarlane*, S. J. Markich, K. Linz, S. Gifford, R. H. Dunstan, W. O'Connor, R. A. Russell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The Akoya pearl oyster (Pinctada imbricata) was experimentally exposed to (a) constant levels of lead (Pb) at 180 μg L -1 for nine weeks, or (b) two short term (pulse) exposures of Pb at 180 μg L -1 (three weeks each) with an intervening depuration period (three weeks), to assess its utility as an (i) accumulative monitor of Pb contamination and an (ii) archival monitor for discriminating constant versus pulsed Pb exposure events. P. imbricata showed similar reductions in growth (based on shell morphology and wet weight) and Pb accumulation patterns for whole tissue and shell in response to both Pb exposure regimes. Thus the whole oyster was deemed an inappropriate accumulative monitor for assessing short-term temporal variation of Pb exposure and effect. However, using secondary ion mass spectrometry, Pb was shown to accumulate in the successively deposited nacreous layers of the shell of P. imbricata, documenting the exposure history of constant versus pulsed Pb events. Patterns of Pb deposition not only reflected the frequency of Pb exposure events but also their relative durations. Thus, the shell of P. imbricata may be employed as a suitable biological archive of Pb exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-173
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Biomonitor
  • Lead (Pb)
  • Pearl oyster
  • Secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS)
  • Shell


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