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Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

Behavioural alterations induced by the anxiolytic pollutant oxazepam are reversible after depuration in a freshwater fish

Sundin, Josefin; Jutfelt, Fredrik; Thorlacius, Magnus; Fick, Jerker; Brodin, Tomas


Anthropogenic pharmaceutical pollutants have been detected in nature across the globe, and recent work has shown negative effects of pharmaceuticals on the health and welfare of many animals. However, whether alterations can be reversed has been poorly investigated, although such studies are essential to assess the effects of high-peak exposure events in waterways where pharmaceutical concentrations are usually low. In this study, we investigated the effects of two concentrations (environmentally relevant 1 mu g L-1 and high 100 mu g L-1) of oxazepam, an anxiolytic commonly detected in aquatic environments, and whether behavioural alterations are reversible after depuration. Specifically, we measured daytime and night-time swimming activity and daytime behaviours related to boldness (foraging, sheltering and routine swimming activity) using the freshwater burbot (Lota lota). We found that both swimming activity and boldness were affected by oxazepam. Fish exposed to the higher level had a higher burst swimming duration (i.e., fast swimming bouts), both in the daytime and night-time trials. Further, fish exposed to the lower oxazepam level spent less time sheltering than control-and high-level exposed fish, but there was no difference between the control and high oxazepam treatments. For routine swimming activity, quantified in the boldness trials, and for latency to forage, there were no treatment effects. When retesting the fish after depuration, the detected behavioural alterations were no longer present. Since the magnitude of these effects were not consistent across endpoints, our study suggests that oxazepam might not be a great concern for this particular, stress tolerant, species, highlighting the importance of evaluating species-specific effects of pharmaceuticals. The observation that the effects we did find were reversible after depuration is encouraging, and indicates that rapid restoration of behaviours after removal from oxazepam contamination is possible. (c) 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Benzodiazepines; Boldness; Swimming activity; Pharmaceutical contaminants

Published in

Science of the Total Environment
2019, Volume: 665, pages: 390-399

      SLU Authors

      Sustainable Development Goals

      SDG14 Life below water

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Environmental Sciences

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