Species-specific behaviours in amphipods highlight the need for understanding baseline behaviours in ecotoxicology

Shanelle Kohler, Matt Parker, Alex Ford

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Behaviour in ecotoxicology is expanding with techniques and endpoints used in pharmacology being translated to other vertebrate and invertebrate species. Despite this, data on the baseline behaviours of model organisms, and inter-species variability in behaviour are currently under-studied. This study assessed a range of behaviours associated with anxiety including swimming speed, phototaxis and thigmotaxis in a marine and freshwater amphipod (Echinogammarus marinus and Gammarus pulex). Differences in sensitivity to these assays were observed between species with E. marinus showing a greater sensitivity to the phototaxis assay than G. pulex, while in thigmotaxis assays G. pulex appeared better suited than E. marinus for measuring differences in the use of central zones. Significant inter-species differences were also observed in swimming patterns when breaking the data into ten second time bins but not when data was broken into two-minute time bins. The results of this study provide evidence of phototactic and thigmotactic behaviours in two model crustacean species with potential for use in behavioural ecotoxicology. Inter-species variability in sensitivity to behavioural assays highlights the importance of systematic assessment of baseline responses for all model species used in behavioural studies. Careful analysis of data is also required when performing behavioural studies so as not to lose sensitivity in your data.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-180
Number of pages8
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Early online date19 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


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