Drug releases influence fish behavior

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According to a recent Australian study, exposure to drug releases by humans adversely affects fish behavior. Researchers believe that these animals become real “zombies” by losing all “individuality”.

Fish on Prozac

This is no scoop: the oceans and other bodies of water are the trash can of humanity. While it is often in the news about plastic, you should know that drugs in the form of microparticles are also very present. In 2019, a British study explained that all over the world, rivers are subject to significant contamination with antibiotics at rates sometimes three hundred times higher than what the regulations provide.

Antibiotics, antidepressants and other pain relievers are usually found in sewers and then in sewage treatment plants. However, these facilities are rarely intended to process this type of product chemical. At the end of the day, these same products end up in rivers, seas and of course the oceans. Finally, the marine fauna toast by absorbing this cocktail of products, as explained in a study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B February 10, 2021.

Researchers at the University of Western Australia (Australia) looked at the consequences on the fish behavior. Lead author of the study Giovanni Polverino focused his attention on fluoxetine. It is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) psychotropic drug of which the famous Prozac is the originator. Indicated in the treatment of various anxiety-related disorders, this drug is widely consumed worldwide.

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Zombie behavior

As part of their study, Australian scientists followed for two years the behavioral evolution of guppies, fish of the family of Poeciliidae. They subjected them to different levels of fluoxetine concentration, namely lower, equal or even higher than that of the oceans. According to the results, the fish lost all “individuality”. In other words, these all started to act the same like zombies, even in case of exposure to a low concentration. In addition, as the doses increased, these changes in behavior were logically accentuated.

Previous studies going in the same direction already existed. In 2019, an article published by Atlantic shared the results of some of this work. On antidepressants, the cuttlefish would for example have memory problems. The shrimp would expose itself more and unconsciously to its predators. The volume of human discharges of pharmaceuticals could double by 2050. The worst is therefore to be feared for the aquatic fauna.

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