||The toxicity of benz(a)anthracene and fluoranthene (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, PAHs) was evaluated on seven species of marine algae in culture belonging to pico-, nano-, and microphytoplankton, exposed to increasing concentrations of up to 2 mg L-1. The short-term (24 h) toxicity was assessed using chlorophyll a fluorescence transients, linked to photosynthetic parameters. The maximum quantum yield Fv/Fm was lower at the highest concentrations tested and the toxicity thresholds were species-dependent. For acute effects, fluoranthene was more toxic than benz(a)anthracene, with LOECs of 50.6 and 186 mu g L-1, respectively. After 72 h exposure, there was a dose-dependent decrease in cell density, fluoranthene being more toxic than benz(a)anthracene. The population endpoint at 72 h was affected to a greater extent than the photosynthetic endpoint at 24 h. EC50 was evaluated using the Hill model, and species sensitivity was negatively correlated to cell biovolume. The largest species tested, the dinoflagellate Alexandrium catenella, was almost insensitive to either PAH. The population endpoint EC50s for fluoranthene varied from 54 mu g L-1 for the picophytoplankton Picochlorum sp. to 418 mu g L-1 for the larger diatom Chaetoceros muelleri. The size/sensitivity relationship is proposed as a useful model when there is a lack of ecotoxicological data on hazardous chemicals, especially in marine microorganisms. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.