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Exposure to a nicotinoid pesticide reduces defensive behaviors in a non-target organism, the rusty crayfish Orconectes rusticus

Journal article
Authors L. Sohn
R. J. Brodie
G. Couldwell
E. Demmons
Joachim Sturve
Published in Ecotoxicology
Volume 27
Issue 7
Pages 900-907
ISSN 0963-9292
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Pages 900-907
Language en
Keywords Imidacloprid, Sublethal effects, Chronic toxicity, Crayfish, Behavior
Subject categories Toxicology, Ecology


Imidacloprid is the most widely used of the nicotinoid insecticides, the fastest growing class of pesticides on the global market. Although less toxic to mammals and birds compared to organophosphates, nicotinoids have the potential to impact non-target invertebrates, especially through sublehal effects on behavior, physiology, reproduction, and development. We investigated the impact of sublethal doses of imidacloprid on the defensive responses of rusty crayfish Orconectes rusticus exposed to 0, 1, 10, and 100 µg•L−1 of imidacloprid for 10 days (n = 7 crayfish per treatment). Defensive behaviors were examined with the rod test, in which a glass rod was jabbed into the crayfish’s container at a 90 degree angle from the bottom and about 0.5 cm directly in front of the crayfish. Crayfish responded to the rod aggressively with claw raising and pinching, neutrally (no response), or by backing or tail-flipping away. The frequency of neutral responses more than doubled after four days in the high (100 µg•L−1) group and after eight days in the low (1 µg•L−1) exposure group. Furthermore, most crayfish in the 100 µg•L−1 treatment were not able to right themselves within 30 s when placed on their backs. Several studies have reported concentrations of imidacloprid contamination in freshwater ecosystems that exceed this study’s lowest exposure scenario, 1 µg•L−1. We therefore conclude that imidacloprid contamination reduces the defensive behaviors of crayfish, impairing their ability to survive in habitats where they play important ecological roles.

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