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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2016

GABAergic anxiolytic drug in water increases migration behaviour in salmon

Hellström, Gustav; Klaminder, Jonatan; Persson, Lo; Alanärä, Anders; Jonsson, Micael; Fick, Jerker; Brodin, Tomas


Migration is an important life-history event in a wide range of taxa, yet many migrations are influenced by anthropogenic change. Although migration dynamics are extensively studied, the potential effects of environmental contaminants on migratory physiology are poorly understood. In this study we show that an anxiolytic drug in water can promote downward migratory behaviour of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) in both laboratory setting and in a natural river tributary. Exposing salmon smolt to a dilute concentration of a GABAA receptor agonist (oxazepam) increased migration intensity compared with untreated smolt. These results implicate that salmon migration may be affected by human-induced changes in water chemical properties, such as acidification and pharmaceutical residues in wastewater effluent, via alterations in the GABAA receptor function.

Published in

Nature Communications
2016, Volume: 7, article number: 13460