Co-occurring Environmental Stressors have Emerging Impacts on Sensory-Motor Behavior

Piyumika S. Suriyampola, Melissa Lopez, Monserrat Suárez-Rodríguez, Brontë E. Ellsworth, Otakuye Conroy-Ben, Emília P. Martins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Anthropogenic activities often lead to alterations in the natural environment via multiple routes. Simultaneous occurrence of interacting environmental perturbations may influence animals via more complex pathways than when being exposed to environmental stressors discretely. In our study, we investigated the interactive effects of poor visual environment and exposure to an environmentally realistic concentration of a common contaminant on the behavior of larval zebrafish, Danio rerio. Specifically, we tested the sensory-motor behavior of zebrafish larvae by exposing them to low-light conditions and a low concentration of bisphenol-A (BPA) for 7 days postfertilization. We found that zebrafish exposed to both BPA and low-light conditions had significantly weaker response to a moving-visual cue. However, those exposed to only one of these treatments did not have altered response to visual cues. Since the response to a moving, visual cue involves locomotion, we also examined the distance they traveled as a proxy for activity level of individuals across treatments. However, the distance traveled by individuals did not significantly differ across treatments, suggesting that the differences in response are linked to visual sensory pathways. Here, we emphasize that the adverse effects of environmental stressors, particularly of those that occur at environmentally relevant concentrations, may emerge only when they co-occur with another environmental stressor. These findings highlight the need to incorporate multiple environmental stressors to comprehensively assess impacts that human activities have on behavioral strategies of animals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1191-1201
Number of pages11
JournalIntegrative and comparative biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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