Thermal modulation of anthropogenic estrogen exposure on a freshwater fish at two life stages

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Abstract

Human-mediated environmental change can induce changes in the expression of complex behaviors within individuals and alter the outcomes of interactions between individuals. Although the independent effects of numerous stressors on aquatic biota are well documented (e.g., exposure to environmental contaminants), fewer studies have examined how natural variation in the ambient environment modulates these effects. In this study, we exposed reproductively mature and larval fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) to three environmentally relevant concentrations (14, 22, and 65 ng/L) of a common environmental estrogen, estrone (E1), at four water temperatures (15, 18, 21, and 24 °C) reflecting natural spring and summer variation. We then conducted a series of behavioral experiments to assess the independent and interactive effects of temperature and estrogen exposure on intra- and interspecific interactions in three contexts with important fitness consequences; reproduction, foraging, and predator evasion. Our data demonstrated significant independent effects of temperature and/or estrogen exposure on the physiology, survival, and behavior of larval and adult fish. We also found evidence suggesting that thermal regime can modulate the effects of exposure on larval survival and predator-prey interactions, even within a relatively narrow range of seasonally fluctuating temperatures. These findings improve our understanding of the outcomes of interactions between anthropogenic stressors and natural abiotic environmental factors, and suggest that such interactions can have ecological and evolutionary implications for freshwater populations and communities.

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