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Endocrine Disruption In Invertebrates

J. Oehlmann, U. Schulte-Oehlmann

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Recent reports have shown that a number of xenobiotics in the environment are capable of interfering with the normal endocrine function in a variety of animals. The overwhelming majority of the studies on the effects of hormone-mimetic industrial chemicals were focused on findings in vertebrates. More detailed information about the effects on and mechanisms of action in invertebrates has only been obtained from a few cases, although invertebrates represent more than 95 % of the known species in the animal kingdom and are extremely important with regard to ecosystem structure and function. The limited number of examples for endocrine disruption (ED) in invertebrates is partially due to the fact that their hormonal systems are rather poorly understood in comparison with vertebrates. Deleterious endocrine changes following an exposure to certain compounds may easily be missed or simply be unmeasurable at present, even though a number of studies show that endocrine disruption has probably occurred. The well-documented case studies of tributyltin effects in mollusks and of insect growth regulators, the latter as purposely synthesized endocrine disruptors, are explained to support this view. According to our present knowledge, there is no reason to suppose that such far-reaching changes are in any sense unique. The additional existing evidence for ED in invertebrates from laboratory and field studies are summarized as an update and amendment of the EDIETA report from 1998. Finally, conclusions about the scale and implications of the observed effects are drawn and further research needs are defined.