Endocrine disrupting chemicals and sexual behaviors in fish - a critical review on effects and possible consequences

  • Soeffker M
  • Tyler C
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Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) enter aquatic ecosystems through discharged effluents, mainly from wastewater treatment works and diffuse run off from land, and affect a wide range of aquatic biota, including fish. Evidence for altered physiology in fish as a consequence of endocrine disruption is global, with some of the most widely reported effects on sexual development and function. In recent years, research has shown that fish behaviors can also be affected by EDCs which potentially has wide implications for individual fitness and population level outcomes. This review presents a critical assessment on reported effects of EDCs on behavior in fish, focusing on behaviors associated with reproduction. We investigate commonalities and differences in sexual behaviors between fish species most commonly applied in ecotoxicology, drawing out common principles for impacts of EDCs and then reviewing the evidence for, and implications of, disruptions of these behaviors after exposures to EDCs. In an analysis of the reported effects of exposure to the estrogen ethinylestradiol, we show that life-stage at exposure is a key factor determining behavioral responses of affected populations. EDC-induced changes in behavior occur at similar concentrations as for established biomarker responses (e. g. vitellogenin induction for estrogens), indicating behavior is equally sensitive (and noninvasive) as an indicator of EDC exposure. Adopting behaviors in fish as indicators of chemical exposure and effects, however, still has many technical and interpretation challenges and there is very little information available on how behaviors under laboratory conditions equate with those occurring in wild populations.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Chemical pollutants; ecotoxicology; reproduction;

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  • Marta Soeffker

  • Charles R Tyler

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