The effect of hypoxia and hydrocarbons on the anti-predator performance of European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax).


CNR-IAMC, Istituto per l'Ambiente Marino Costiero, Località Sa Mardini, 09170, Torregrande, Oristano, Italy. Electronic address: [Email]


Hydrocarbons contamination and hypoxia are two stressors that can coexist in coastal ecosystems. At present, few studies evaluated the combined impact of these stressors on fish physiology and behavior. Here, we tested the effect of the combination of hypoxia and petrogenic hydrocarbons on the anti-predator locomotor performance of fish. Specifically, two groups of European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) were exposed to clean water (Ctrl) or oil-contaminated water (Oil). Subsequently, fish of both groups were placed in normoxic (norx) or hypoxic (hyp) experimental tanks (i.e. four groups of fish were formed: Ctrl norx, Ctrl hyp, Oil norx, Oil hyp). In these tanks, escape response was elicited by a mechano-acoustic stimulus and recorded with a high speed camera. Several variables were analyzed: escape response duration, responsiveness (percentage of fish responding to the stimulation), latency (time taken by the fish to initiate a response), directionality (defined as away or toward the stimulus), distance-time variables (such as speed and acceleration), maneuverability variables (such as turning rate), escape trajectory (angle of flight) and distancing of the fish from the stimulus. Results revealed (i) effects of stressors (Ctrl hyp, Oil norx and Oil hyp) on the directionality; (ii) effects of Oil norx and Oil hyp on maneuverability and (iii) effects of Oil hyp on distancing. These results suggest that individual stressors could alter the escape response of fish and that their combination could strengthen these effects. Such an impact could decrease the probability of prey escape success. By investigating the effects of hydrocarbons (and the interaction with hypoxia) on the anti-predator behavior of fish, this work increases our understanding of the biological impact of oil spill. Additionally, the results of this study are of interest for oil spill impact evaluation and also for developing new ecotoxicological tools of ecological significance.


Escape response,Locomotion,Oil,Oxygen,Teleost,