The effects of plastic additives on swimming activity and startle response in marine amphipod Echinogammarus marinus

Bidemi Green-Ojo, Hung Tan, Marina Tenório Botelho, Henry Obanya, Lena Grinsted, Mathew O. Parker, Alex T. Ford

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Plastic additives are widely used in plastic production and are found in the environment owing to their widespread applications. Among these additives, N-butyl benzenesulfonamide (NBBS) and triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) are under international watchlist for evaluation, with limited studies on amphipods. Di-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) and dibutyl phthalate (DBP) are banned in some countries and categorised as substances of very high concern. This study aimed to investigate the effects of NBBS, TPHP, DEHP and DBP on the swimming activity of a coastal intertidal marine amphipod, Echinogammarus marinus. Furthermore, this study is the first to quantify startle response in E. marinus in response to light stimuli. Amphipods were exposed to 0, 0.5, 5, 50 and 500 μg/l concentrations of all test compounds. Swimming activity and startle responses were assessed by video tracking and analysis using an 8-min alternating dark and light protocol after exposure on days 7 and 14. We observed an overall compound and light effect on the swimming activity of E. marinus. A significant decrease in swimming distance was found in 500 μg/l NBBS and TPHP. We observed that the startle response in E. marinus had a latency period of >2 s and animals were assessed at 1 s and the sum of the first 5 s. There was a clear startle response in E. marinus during dark to light transition, evident with increased swimming distance. NBBS exposure significantly increased startle response at environmental concentrations, while significant effects were only seen in 500 μg/l TPHP at 5 s. We found no significant effects of DEHP and DBP on swimming behaviour at the concentrations assessed. The findings of this study affirm the necessity for a continuous review of plastic additives to combat adverse behavioural effects that may be transferable to the population levels.
Original languageEnglish
Article number170793
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date9 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024


  • Plastic additives
  • Swimming behaviour
  • Startle response
  • Behavioural ecotoxicology

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