Combined effects of climate change and BDE-209 dietary exposure on the behavioural response of the white seabream, Diplodus sargus

Marta Dias, José Ricardo Paula, Pedro Pousão-Ferreira, Susana Casal, Rebeca Cruz, Sara C. Cunha, Rui Rosa, António Marques, Patrícia Anacleto, Ana Luísa Maulvault

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Decabromodiphenyl-ether (BDE-209) is a persistent organic pollutant ubiquitously found in marine environments worldwide. Even though this emerging chemical contaminant is described as highly toxic, bioaccumulative and biomagnifiable, limited studies have addressed the ecotoxicological implications associated with its exposure in non-target marine organisms, particularly from a behavioural standpoint. Alongside, seawater acidification and warming have been intensifying their impacts on marine ecosystems over the years, compromising species welfare and survival. BDE-209 exposure as well as seawater acidification and warming are known to affect fish behaviour, but information regarding their interactive effects is not available. In this study, long-term effects of BDE-209 contamination, seawater acidification and warming were studied on different behavioural traits of Diplodus sargus juveniles. Our results showed that D. sargus exhibited a marked sensitivity in all the behaviour responses after dietary exposure to BDE-209. Fish exposed to BDE-209 alone revealed lower awareness of a risky situation, increased activity, less time spent within the shoal, and reversed lateralization when compared to fish from the Control treatment. However, when acidification and/or warming were added to the equation, behavioural patterns were overall altered. Fish exposed to acidification alone exhibited increased anxiety, being less active, spending more time within the shoal, while presenting a reversed lateralization. Finally, fish exposed to warming alone were more anxious and spent more time within the shoal compared to those of the Control treatment. These novel findings not only confirm the neurotoxicological attributes of brominated flame retardants (like BDE-209), but also highlight the relevance of accounting for the effects of abiotic variables (e.g. pH and seawater temperature) when investigating the impacts of environmental contaminants on marine life.

Original languageEnglish
Article number163400
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2023


  • Acidification
  • BDE-209
  • Contaminants
  • Fish behaviour
  • Warming


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