Behavioural endpoints are a good link between physiological and ecological effects. However long-term behavioural endpoints are not uniformly studied over all different organism groups. For example behaviour has been scarcely studied in planarians. Unionized ammonia (NH3) is one of the most widespread pollutants in developed countries, and is known to alter animal behaviour. In this study a long-term (30d) bioassay was conducted to assess the effect of this pollutant on survival and behavioural activity (e.g. locomotion activity) of the freshwater planarian Polycelis felina. One control and three environmentally-realistic concentrations of unionized ammonia (treatments of 0.02, 0.05, and 0.09mgN-NH3L-1) were used in quintuplicate. The behaviour of planarians was measured after 0, 10, 20 and 30d of ammonia exposure. Mortality was recorded every 2d. Unionized ammonia increased mortality in the two highest NH3concentrations and the locomotory activity was depressed in all treatments after 20d of exposure. Behavioural effect was observed at concentrations 20 times lower than the short-term LC50 for this species. Previous studies proposed safe concentrations of unionized ammonia of 0.01-0.10mgN-NH3L-1to aquatic ecosystems, but our study has shown that these concentrations will affect planarians. Because planarians play a key role in streams (as predator/scavenger), safe concentrations should be below 0.02mgN-NH3L-1to protect this species in the freshwater community. Our results can contribute to improve the knowledge about ammonia toxicity to freshwater ecosystems, we recommend that safe concentrations of unionized ammonia should be based on very sensitive species. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
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