Oil exposure alters social group cohesion in fish

Armstrong, T., Khursigara, A. J., Killen, S. S. , Fearnley, H., Parsons, K. J. and Esbaugh, A. J. (2019) Oil exposure alters social group cohesion in fish. Scientific Reports, 9, 13520. (doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-49994-1) (PMID:31534177) (PMCID:PMC6751191)

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Many animal taxa live in groups to increase foraging and reproductive success and aid in predator avoidance. For fish, a large proportion of species spend all or part of their lives in groups, with group coordination playing an important role in the emergent benefits of group-living. Group cohesion can be altered by an array of factors, including exposure to toxic environmental contaminants. Oil spills are one of the most serious forms of pollution in aquatic systems, and while a range of effects of acute oil exposure on animal physiology have been demonstrated, sub-lethal effects on animal behavior are relatively under-studied. Here we used an open-field behavioral assay to explore influence of acute oil exposure on social behavior in a gregarious fish native to the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic croaker (Micropogonias undulatus). We used two oil concentrations (0.7% and 2% oil dilution, or 6.0 ± 0.9 and 32.9 ± 5.9 μg l−1 ΣPAH50 respectively) and assays were performed when all members of a group were exposed, when only one member was exposed, and when no individuals were exposed. Shoal cohesion, as assessed via mean neighbor distance, showed significant impairment following acute exposure to 2% oil. Fish in oil-exposed groups also showed reduced voluntary movement speed. Importantly, overall group cohesion was disrupted when even one fish within a shoal was exposed to 2% oil, and the behavior of unexposed in mixed groups, in terms of movement speed and proximity to the arena wall, was affected by the presence of these exposed fish. These results demonstrate that oil exposure can have adverse effects on fish behavior that may lead to reduced ecological success.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This research was made possible by a grant from Te Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative awarded to AJE, Grant No: SA-1520; Name: Relationship of Effects of Cardiac Outcomes in fish for Validation of Ecological Risk (RECOVER). SSK was supported by NERC Advanced Fellowship NE/J019100/1 and European Research Council Starting Grant no. 640004. Data are publicly available through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Information and Data Cooperative (GRIIDC) at https://data.gulfresearchinitiative.org (DOI: 10.7266/N77D2SNH and 10.7266/ N73N21WQ).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Killen, Professor Shaun and Armstrong, Miss Tiffany and Parsons, Dr Kevin
Authors: Armstrong, T., Khursigara, A. J., Killen, S. S., Fearnley, H., Parsons, K. J., and Esbaugh, A. J.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Scientific Reports
Publisher:Nature Research
ISSN (Online):2045-2322
Published Online:18 September 2019
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 The Authors
First Published:First published in Scientific Reports 9:13520
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
167015The Influence of Individual Physiology on Group Behaviour in Fish SchoolsShaun KillenNatural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/J019100/1Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine