John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

The common ecotoxicology laboratory strain of Hyalella azteca is genetically distinct from most wild strains sampled in eastern North America

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The amphipod Hyalella azteca is commonly used as a model for determining safe concentrations of contaminants in freshwaters. We sequenced the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) gene for representatives of 38 populations of this species complex from US and Canadian toxicology research laboratories and eastern North American field sites to determine their genetic relationships. With one exception, all US and Canadian laboratory cultures sampled were identified as conspecific. In twenty‐two wild populations spanning five US states and one Canadian province, the commonly occurring laboratory species was found only in northern Florida. Therefore, the diversity of the H. azteca species complex detected in the wild is not accurately represented in North American laboratories, questioning the reliability of H. azteca cultures currently in use to accurately predict the responses of wild populations in ecotoxicological assays. We also examined the utility of different COI nucleotide fragments presently in use to determine phylogenetic relationships in this group, and concluded that saturation in DNA sequences leads to inconsistent relationships between clades. Amino acid sequences for COI were not saturated and may allow a more accurate phylogeny estimate. Hyalella azteca is crucial for developing water quality regulations; therefore, laboratories should know and standardize the strain/s they use in order to confidently compare toxicity tests across laboratories and determine whether they are an appropriate surrogate for their regions. Environ Toxicol Chem © 2013 SETAC

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