Impacts of the antidepressant fluoxetine on the anti-predator behaviours of wild guppies (Poecilia reticulata)

Minna Saaristo, Alisha McLennan, Christopher P Johnstone, Bradley O. Clarke, Bob Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

71 Citations (Scopus)


Chemical pollution from pharmaceuticals is increasingly recognised as a major threat to aquatic communities. One compound of great concern is fluoxetine, which is one of the most widely prescribed psychoactive drugs in the world and frequently detected in the environment. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of 28-d fluoxetine exposure at two environmentally relevant levels (measured concentrations: 4 ng/L and 16 ng/L) on anti-predator behaviour in wild guppies (Poecilia reticulata). This was achieved by subjecting fluoxetine-exposed and unexposed guppies to a simulated bird strike and recording their subsequent behavioural responses. We found that exposure to fluoxetine affected the anti-predator behaviour of guppies, with exposed fish remaining stationary for longer (i.e. ‘freezing’ behaviour) after the simulated strike and also spending more time under plant cover. By contrast, control fish were significantly more active and explored the tank more, as indicated by the distance covered per minute over the period fish spent swimming. Furthermore, behavioural shifts were sex-dependent, with evidence of a non-monotonic dose-response among the fluoxetine-exposed fish. This is one of the first studies to show that exposure to environmentally relevant concentrations of fluoxetine can alter the anti-predator behaviour of adult fish. In addition to the obvious repercussions for survival, impaired anti-predator behaviour can have direct impacts on fitness and influence the overall population dynamics of species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-45
Number of pages8
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017


  • Exploratory behaviour
  • Fish
  • Freezing behaviour
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Plant cover
  • Prozac

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