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Research article2023Peer reviewed

Bigger and bolder: Widespread agricultural pollutant 17 beta-trenbolone increases growth and alters behaviour in tadpoles (Litoria ewingii)

Orford, Jack T.; Tan, Hung; Tingley, Reid; Alton, Lesley A.; Wong, Bob B. M.; Martin, Jake M.


Endocrine-disrupting chemicals-compounds that directly interfere with the endocrine system of exposed ani-mals-are insidious environmental pollutants that can disrupt hormone function, even at very low concentra-tions. The dramatic impacts that some endocrine-disrupting chemicals can have on the reproductive development of wildlife are well documented. However, the potential of endocrine-disrupting chemicals to disrupt animal behaviour has received far less attention, despite the important links between behavioural pro-cesses and population-level fitness. Accordingly, we investigated the impacts of 14 and 21-day exposure to two environmentally realistic levels of 17 beta-trenbolone (4.6 and 11.2 ng/L), a potent endocrine-disrupting steroid and agricultural pollutant, on growth and behaviour in tadpoles of an anuran amphibian, the southern brown tree frog (Litoria ewingii). We found that 17 beta-trenbolone altered morphology, baseline activity and responses to a predatory threat, but did not affect anxiety-like behaviours in a scototaxis assay. Specifically, we found that tadpoles exposed to our high-17 beta-trenbolone treatment were significantly longer and heavier at 14 and 21 days. We also found that tadpoles exposed to 17 beta-trenbolone showed higher levels of baseline activity, and signifi-cantly reduced their activity following a simulated predator strike. These results provide insights into the wider repercussions of agricultural pollutants on key developmental and behavioural traits in aquatic species, and demonstrate the importance of behavioural studies in the ecotoxicological field.


Ecotoxicology; Agricultural contaminant; Amphibian; Behaviour; Endocrine disrupting chemical; Trenbolone

Published in

Aquatic Toxicology
2023, Volume: 260, article number: 106577
Publisher: ELSEVIER

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG14 Life below water

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Behavioral Sciences Biology
    Environmental Sciences

    Publication identifier


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