Exposure of zebrafish to an environmental mixture of persistent organic pollutants triggers an increase in anxiety-like syndrome but does not affect boldness in unexposed offspring

Multigenerational Behaviour Behavioural syndrome Fish Pollutants


Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that are present as complex mixtures in all environmental compartments, including aquatic ecosystems. However, little is known about the effects of such complex mixtures on teleost behaviour. In this study, zebrafish (Danio rerio) were chronically exposed to an environmentally relevant mixture (MIX) containing 22 PCB and 7 PBDE congeners through diet from 5 days post fertilization onwards. MIX-exposed F0 fish produced offspring (F1 and F2 generations) that were fed using plain food and grown until adulthood. In each generation, five behavioural traits (i.e. boldness, activity, sociality, exploration and anxiety) were evaluated by the mean of different experimental set-ups. Two distinct behavioural syndromes were identified: boldness, positively correlated to activity and exploration; and anxiety, associated with low sociality. F0 fish did not display any behavioural disruption resulting from POP exposure whereas F1 MIX fish were bolder than fish from other generations but did not differ significantly from F1 controls. F2 MIX fish displayed a higher anxiety syndrome than F2 controls. This is of particular importance since such behavioural changes in offspring generations may have persistent ecological consequences, may affect fitness and hence cause detrimental effects on wild fish populations exposed to POP mixtures.