Behavioural responses of Gammarus pulex (Crustacea, Amphipoda) to low concentrations of pharmaceuticals

H.J. de Lange, W. Noordoven, A.J. Murk, M.F.L.L.W. Lürling, E.T.H.M. Peeters

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200 Citations (Scopus)


The continuous discharge of pharmaceuticals and personal care products into the environment results in a chronic exposure of aquatic organisms to these substances and their metabolites. As concentrations in surface waters are in the ng/L range, and sometimes in the low microg/L range, they are not likely to result in lethal toxicity. However, prolonged exposure to low concentrations of anthropogenic chemicals may lead to sublethal effects, including changes in behaviour. The aim of this study was to assess the effect of three pharmaceuticals, the antidepressant fluoxetine, the analgesic ibuprofen and the anti-epileptic carbamazepine, and one cationic surfactant, cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB), on the activity of the benthic invertebrate Gammarus pulex (Crustacea: Amphipoda: Gammaridae). We used the multispecies freshwater biomonitor to assess changes in activity of G. pulex in a quantitative manner. Exposure to low concentrations (10-100ng/L) of fluoxetine and ibuprofen resulted in a significant decrease in activity, whereas the activity of G. pulex at higher concentrations (1microg/L-1mg/L) was similar to the control. Response to carbamazepine showed a similar pattern, however, differences were not significant. The tested surfactant CTAB evoked a decrease in activity at increasing concentration. These behavioural effect concentrations were 10(4) to 10(7) times lower than previously reported LOECs and in the range of environmentally occurring concentrations. The potential consequences of this decreased activity for G. pulex population growth and benthic community structure and the exposure to mixtures of pharmaceuticals deserves further attention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-216
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • gammarus pulex
  • aquatic environment
  • drugs
  • aquatic organisms
  • drug residues
  • behaviour
  • surface water
  • water pollution
  • ecotoxicology
  • biomonitoring
  • serotonin reuptake inhibitors
  • sewage-treatment plants
  • released chemical cues
  • waste-water
  • impedance conversion
  • clofibric acid
  • surface waters
  • daphnia-magna
  • toxicity


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