A meta-analysis synthesizing the effects of pesticides on swim speed and activity of aquatic vertebrates

Molly E. Shuman-Goodier, Catherine R. Propper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Pesticide contaminants are ubiquitous in aquatic environments and pose a threat to biodiversity. Pesticides also have diverse mechanisms of action that make it difficult to identify impacts on exposed wildlife. Behavioral measures represent an important link between physiological and ecological processes, and are often used to generalize sub-lethal effects of pesticide exposure. In order to bridge the toxicological and behavioral literature, and identify chemical classes that denote the largest threat, we conducted a meta-analysis summarizing the effects of pesticides on swim speed and activity of aquatic vertebrates. We found that exposure to environmentally relevant concentrations of pesticides reduced the swim speed of exposed amphibians and fish by 35%, and reduced overall activity by 72%. There were also differences in the magnitude of this effect across chemical classes, which likely reflect underlying physiological processes. Pyrethroids, carbamates, and organophosphates all produced a large decrease in swim speed, where as phosphonoglycines and triazines showed no overall effect. Pyrethroids, carbamates, organophosphates, organochlorines, and organotins also produced a large decrease in activity, while phosphonoglycines had no overall effect, and triazines had the opposite effect of increasing activity. Our results indicate that even sub-lethal concentrations of pesticides have a strong effect on critical behaviors of aquatic vertebrates, which can affect fitness and alter species interactions. We expect our synthesis can be used to identify chemical classes producing the largest sub-lethal effects for further research and management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)758-766
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Sep 15 2016


  • Activity
  • Amphibian
  • Ehavior
  • Fish
  • Pesticides
  • Swim speed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


Dive into the research topics of 'A meta-analysis synthesizing the effects of pesticides on swim speed and activity of aquatic vertebrates'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this