There’s no happy ending for shrimp exposed to the mood-booster Prozac, according to a new study.
Remnants of antidepressant drugs flushed into waterways worldwide are altering shrimp behavior and making them easier prey, experts say.
To mimic conditions in the wild, scientists exposed the estuary-dwelling shrimp Echinogammarus marinus to the antidepressant fluoxetine at levels detected in average sewage-treatment waste. Fluoxetine is the key ingredient in the drugs Prozac and Sarafem.
Shrimp normally gravitate toward safe, dark corners. But when exposed to fluoxetine, the animals were five times more likely to swim toward a bright region of water, the team discovered.
“This behavior makes them much more likely to be eaten by a predator, such as a fish or bird,” said study co-author Alex Ford, a biologist at U.K.’s University of Portsmouth.
The fluoxetine likely makes shrimp’s nerves more sensitive to serotonin, a brain chemical known to alter moods and sleep patterns, according to the study, recently published in the journal Aquatic Toxicology. Full Story
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A study shows that drug traces in our waste can affect marine life behavior, but can crustaceans have feelings?
I have friends who are always talking about happy pigs and happy chickens — left to roam freely, eating real food instead of weird commercial food pellets, given the occasional backrub. But pity the poor shrimp! No one is raising happy shrimp … on purpose anyway. But all the Prozac we’ve been taking may be doing the work for us, and marine biologists at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K. have found that enough of the drug passes through our bodies directly into the wastewater to seriously change the behavior of shrimp who swim in it: They’re killing themselves. But do shrimp even have emotions?
Shrimp are a shy and retiring lot, living in shadows and dark crevices to hide from predators (and nurse their psychic scars?). But when they’re swimming in concentrations of Prozac (or, more specifically, the chemical fluoxetine) as those found in the water around some urban areas, they become five times as likely to swim toward light, making them easy prey. And sadly, pollutants from urban runoff are in highest concentration in river estuaries and right near the coast … which is where shrimp tend to live. Aside from the tragic irony, if shrimp populations start to collapse, it could have a serious effect on the established balance of the food chain. And most wastewater treatment plants aren’t geared toward removing residual drugs from the water. (A few years ago, scientists found fish changing sexes because of contraceptives and other chemicals in runoff.) Full Story