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The Scientific World Journal
Volume 2014, Article ID 936202, 13 pages
Research Article

Oversimplification and Overstandardization in Biological Methods: Sperm Bioassays in Ecotoxicology as a Case of Study and a Proposal for Their Reformulation

Grupo de Reciclado e Valorización de Materiais Residuais (REVAL), Instituto de Investigacións Mariñas (CSIC), r/Eduardo Cabello 6, Vigo, 36208 Galicia, Spain

Received 23 August 2013; Accepted 27 October 2013; Published 6 February 2014

Academic Editors: L. Bonaccorsi and S. Nishizuka

Copyright © 2014 M. A. Murado and M. A. Prieto. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


An interesting toxicological bioassay (fertilization inhibition in sea urchin) uses as assessment criterion a variable (fertilization ratio) whose variation with time creates two types of difficulties. First, it fails to distinguish between the toxic effect and the spontaneous decline in the sperm activity, causing some inconsistencies. Second, the sensitivity of the fertilization ratio to many other variables of the system requires a complex standardization, constraining the achievement of the method without solving its main problem. Our proposal consists of using a parameter (sperm half-life) as the response of the assay, and describing explicitly the behavior of the system as a simultaneous function of dose and time. This new focus is able to solve the problematic character of the results based on the fertilization ratio and by using the same data set which is required by the conventional approach; it simplifies the protocol, economizes experimental effort, provides unambiguous and robust results, and contributes to the detection of an artefactual temperature effect, which is not very evident under the usual perspective. Potential application of this new approach to the improvement of other formally similar bioassays is finally suggested.