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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2014

Ecological effects of pharmaceuticals in aquatic systems-impacts through behavioural alterations

Brodin, Tomas; Piovano, Susanna; Fick, Jerker; Klaminder, Jonatan; Heynen, Martina; Jonsson, Micael


The study of animal behaviour is important for both ecology and ecotoxicology, yet research in these two fields is currently developing independently. Here, we synthesize the available knowledge on drug-induced behavioural alterations in fish, discuss potential ecological consequences and report results from an experiment in which we quantify both uptake and behavioural impact of a psychiatric drug on a predatory fish (Perca fluviatilis) and its invertebrate prey (Coenagrion hastulatum). We show that perch became more active while damselfly behaviour was unaffected, illustrating that behavioural effects of pharmaceuticals can differ between species. Furthermore, we demonstrate that prey consumption can be an important exposure route as on average 46% of the pharmaceutical in ingested prey accumulated in the predator. This suggests that investigations of exposure through bioconcentration, where trophic interactions and subsequent bioaccumulation of exposed individuals are ignored, underestimate exposure. Wildlife may therefore be exposed to higher levels of behaviourally altering pharmaceuticals than predictions based on commonly used exposure assays and pharmaceutical concentrations found in environmental monitoring programmes.


benzodiazepines; bioconcentration; contaminants; behaviour; ecological effects; Perca fluviatilis

Published in

Philosophical Transactions B: Biological Sciences
2014, volume: 369, number: 1656, article number: 20130580
Publisher: ROYAL SOC

Authors' information

Umeå University
Piovano, Susanna
University of the South Pacific
Piovano, Susanna
University of Turin
Fick, Jerker
Umea University
Klaminder, Jonatan
Umea University
Heynen, Martina
Umea University
Jonsson, Micael
Umea University

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