N. M Sopinka, J. R Marentette, and S. Balshine (2010)
Impact of contaminant exposure on resource contests in an invasive fish
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 64(12):1947-1958.
There is increasing concern for the disruptive effects seen in aquatic species exposed to environmental contaminants. However, few studies have investigated the impact of such contaminants on the behavior of individuals living in exposed waters. Contaminant exposure can affect animal populations by disrupting behaviors including feeding, locomotion, and mating. In this study, we examined how living in an ecosystem polluted by combinations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, and heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, iron, lead, zinc) impacts contest behavior in the round goby (Neogobius melanostomus). Fish collected from heavily contaminated and cleaner sites in Lake Ontario were subjected to a resource contest to determine the effect of these contaminants on aggression and the establishment of dominance hierarchies, which in turn influence access to food, shelter, and mating opportunities. Dominance establishment (a clear resource winner) was less obvious among fish from the contaminated site compared to the more stable hierarchies that formed between pairs of fish from the clean site. Pairs of fish from the contaminated site performed more assessment displays compared to fish from clean sites. These results suggest that the costs of living in an environment under exposure can shape behavioral repertoires. The altered conflict resolution strategies of contaminated fish may reflect impaired cognitive function, sensory perception, and/or higher metabolic load associated with aggression. This study provides support for the utilization of quantifiable behavioral differences as ecologically relevant measures of contaminant exposure.