High-throughput screening of psychotropic compounds: impacts on swimming behaviours in Artemia franciscana

Shanelle Amber Kohler, Matt Parker, Alex Ford

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Animal behaviour is becoming increasingly popular as an endpoint in ecotoxicology due to their increased sensitivity and speed compared to traditional endpoints. However, the widespread use of animal behaviours in environmental risk assessment is currently hindered by a lack of optimisation and standardisation of behavioural assays for model species. In this study, assays to assess swimming speed were developed for a model crustacean species, the brine shrimp Artemia franciscana. Preliminary works were performed to determine optimal arena size for this species, and weather lux used in the experiments had an impact on the animals phototactic response. Swimming speed was significantly lower in the smallest arena, whilst no difference was observed between the two larger arenas, suggesting that the small arena was limiting swimming ability. No significant difference was observed in attraction to light between high and low light intensities. Arena size had a significant impact on phototaxis behaviours. Large arenas resulted in animals spending more time in the light side of the arena compared to medium and small, irrespective of light intensity. The swimming speed assay was then used to expose specimens to a range of psychotropic compounds with varying modes of action. Results indicate that swimming speed provides a valid measure of the impacts of behaviour modulating compounds on A. franciscana. The psychotropic compounds tested varied in their impacts on animal behaviour. Fluoxetine resulted in increased swimming speed as has been found in other crustacean species, whilst oxazepam, venlafaxine and amitriptyline had no significant impacts on the behaviours measured. The results from this study suggest a simple, fast, high throughput assay for A. franciscana and gains insight on the impacts of a range of psychotropic compounds on the swimming behaviours of a model crustacean species used in ecotoxicology studies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number64
Number of pages20
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2021


  • ecotoxicology
  • behaviour
  • artemia
  • psychotropics
  • behavioural ecotoxicology


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