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NWT_Animals Research SCI

Study examines link between pollution and wildelife behavior

A new study suggests that pollution can influence animal behavior in the wild.

Scientists from the University of Portsmouth have created novel scientific tests that could help us better understand the connection between wildlife behavior and pollution. This unique field of behavioral toxicology has become a focus in environmental sciences, with many new studies suggesting that exposure to chemicals can change animal behavior.

The team examined tiny shrimp-like crustaceans called amphipods and found that shape and tank size can affect the time they spend next to a wall, exploratory behaviors, and swimming speed.

“These results are really important for us and the scientific community in determining the correct experimental design,” said Alex Ford, senior author on the study. “If scientists don’t give the organisms the space to behave they might not detect the impacts of chemical pollution.”

“Environmental toxicologists around the world often use similar processes but not always for the same species for their pollution testing,” he added. “This could lead to two groups of scientists getting very different results if their study organism are not the same species.”

“For example, a chemical might have the capacity to alter a certain behaviour but if two closely related species have subtly different reactions to a stimulus (light for example) then this might mask the impacts of the pollutant.”

Matt Parker, co-author of the paper, believes that while least sentient organisms are typically examined due to scientific ethics, they can provide lots of valuable information that can lead to significant advancements in the field.

“This set of studies has highlighted behavioural diversity in two closely related invertebrate species, suggesting that these organisms may be useful for studying the basis of more complex behaviours, and the potential to study the effects of different drugs on behavioural responses,” he said.

The findings were published in PeerJ.

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