The prevalence of pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs) in lotic habitats is increasing, with the main source of these contaminants being effluent from waste water treatment works (WwTW). There is still much uncertainty about the impacts of these PPCPs at environmentally relevant concentrations and their potential effects on aquatic ecology. Behaviour is a sensitive endpoint which can help evaluate possible population level effects from changes in physiology. This paper evaluates the effects of WwTW effluent on a range of behaviours in the freshwater invertebrate, Gammarus pulex. Effluent taken from the outflow of two WwTW in southern England was used in the study. Behavioural analyses, namely feeding rate, phototaxis, activity, velocity and precopula pairing, were measured in G. pulex following a period of one and three weeks after exposure to a 50% or 100% effluent and a control. Mortality remained very low throughout the 3 week experiment (0–10%, n = 20) and no significant changes in moulting frequency were observed (p > 0.05). No significant effects on feeding or velocity or phototaxis following 3 weeks of effluent exposures were observed (p > 0.05). However, significant reductions were observed in the overall activity over 3 weeks across which appeared to be exacerbated by exposure to effluents. Interestingly, males exposed for 3 weeks to WwTW effluent re-paired with unexposed females significantly faster (4-6x) than control animals. This result was consistent between the effluents taken from the two WwTW. The implications of these behavioural changes are currently unknown but highlight the need for a varied set of tools to study the behavioural changes in wildlife.
- Gammarus pulex