Conley, J.M., D.H. Funk, and D.B. Buchwalter. 2009. Environmental Science & Technology 43:7952–7957.
Selenium contamination in aquatic ecosystems provides management challenges because bioaccumulation in animals is largely a function of dietary exposure, whereas regulatory entities have traditionally focused on direct water to organism interactions. Selenium is known to be readily absorbed by primary producers and can potentially biomagnify in food webs and elicit adverse effects in higher trophic levels. However, selenium bioaccumulation in the invertebrate prey of many predatory animals is poorly understood. Here, we used 75Se (as selenite) as a radiotracer to characterize Se bioaccumulation into natural periphyton biofilms and subsequent dietary and maternal transfer in the mayfly, Centroptilum triangulifer, in a life-cycle assay. On average periphyton biofilms bioconcentrated selenium 1113 (±430)-fold following 7−9 days of exposure to a range of environmentally relevant dissolved concentrations (2.4−13.9 μg L−1). Mayflies grown to adulthood on these diets further biomagnified Se with trophic transfer factors averaging 2.2 (±0.4)-fold in postpartum maternal tissues. Adults then transferred 46.5 (±8.8) % of their body burdens to eggs with an observed reduction in fecundity for mayflies fed on diets greater than ∼11 μg g−1. These results suggest that at environmentally feasible dietary Se concentrations insects are potentially affected by Se exposure, and that the current presumption that insects are simply conduits of Se to higher trophic levels is inaccurate.