Differential behavioural responses to venlafaxine exposure route, warming and acidification in juvenile fish (Argyrosomus regius)


• Warming and acidification enhanced VFX bioaccumulation in fish plasma.
• VFX triggered fish exploration, but reduced fish activity and shoal cohesion.
• Altered temperature and pH reduced shoal cohesion regardless of VFX exposure.
• Acidification plus VFX exposure reduced fish side preference.


Antidepressants, such as venlafaxine (VFX), which are considered emerging environmental pollutants, are increasingly more present in the marine environment, and recent evidence suggest that they might have adverse effects on fish behaviour. Furthermore, altered environmental conditions associated to climate change (e.g. warming and acidification) can also have a determinant role on fish behaviour, fitness and survival. Yet, the underlying interactions between these environmental stressors (pharmaceuticals exposure and climate change) are still far from being fully understood. The aim of this study was to assess behavioural responses (in juvenile meagre (Argyrosomus regius) exposed to VFX via water ([VFX] ~20 μg L−1) and via dietary sources ([VFX] ~160 μg kg−1 dry weight), as well as to increased temperature (ΔT°C = +5 °C) and high CO2 levels (ΔpCO2 ~1000 μatm; equivalent to ΔpH = −0.4 units). Overall, VFX bioaccumulation in fish plasma was enhanced under the combination of warming and acidification. VFX triggered fish exploration, whereas fish activity and shoal cohesion were reduced. Acidification alone decreased fish exploration and shoal cohesion, and reversed fish preference to turn leftwards compared to control conditions. Such alterations were further enhanced by VFX exposure. The combination of warming and acidification also reduced shoal cohesion and loss of lateralization, regardless of VFX exposure. The distinct behaviour observed when VFX contamination, acidification and warming acted alone or in combination highlighted the need to consider the likely interactive effects of seawater warming and acidification in future research regarding the toxicological aspects of chemical contaminants.

Maulvault A. L., Santos L. H. M. L. M., Paula J. R., Camacho C., Pissarra V., Fogaça F., Barbosa V., Alves R., Pousão Ferreira P. & Barceló D., 2018. Differential behavioural responses to venlafaxine exposure route, warming and acidification in juvenile fish (Argyrosomus regius). Science of The Total Environment 634: 1136-1147. Article (subscription required).

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