Arsenic Speciation in the Earthworms Lumbricus Rubellus and Dendrodrilus Rubidus

C. J. Langdon, T. G. Piearce, Jorg Feldmann, K. T. Semple, Andrew Alexander Meharg

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Two species of earthworm, Lumbricus rubellus Hoffmeister and Dendrodrilus rubidus (Savigny) collected from an arsenic-contaminated mine spoil site and an uncontaminated site were investigated for total tissue arsenic concentrations and for arsenic compounds by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) and liquid chromatography-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (HPLC-ICP-MS). For L. rubellus, whole-body total tissue arsenic concentrations were 7.0 to 17.0 mg arsenic/ kg dry weight in uncontaminated soil and 162 to 566 mg arsenic/kg dry weight in contaminated soil. For D. rubidus, whole-body tissue concentrations were 2.0 to 5.0 mg arsenic/kg dry weight and 97 to 321 mg arsenic/kg dry weight, respectively. Arsenobetaine was the only organic arsenic species detected in both species of earthworms, with the remainder of the extractable arsenic being arsenate and arsenite. There was an increase in the proportion of arsenic present as arsenobetaine in the total arsenic burden. Lumbricus rubellus and D. rubidus have similar life styles, both being surface living and litter feeding. Arsenic speciation was found to be similar in both species for both uncontaminated and contaminated sites, with dose-dependent formation of arsenobetaine. When L. rubellus and D. rubidus from contaminated sites were incubated in arsenic-free soils, the total tissue burden of arsenic diminished. Initially, L. rubellus from the tolerant populations (from the contaminated site) eliminated arsenic in the first 7 d of exposure before accumulating arsenic in tissues, whereas nontolerant populations (from the uncontaminated site) accumulated arsenic linearly. The tolerant and nontolerant L. rubellus eliminated tissue arsenic linearly over 21 d when incubated in uncontaminated soil.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1302-1308
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2003


  • earthworms
  • arsenic
  • arsenic resistance
  • speciation
  • soil
  • accumulation
  • toxicity
  • worm


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