The effects of trace metal exposure on agonistic encounters in juvenile rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss

K.A. Sloman, D.W. Baker, C.G. Ho, D.G. McDonald, C.M Wood

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The effects of five trace metals, copper, cadmium, nickel, zinc and lead (presented as soluble salts) on the ability of juvenile rainbow trout to form social relationships were investigated. Comparable concentrations of the five metals in relation to their acute 96 h LC50s (concentration at which population mortality=50% at 96 h) were used (i.e. 15% of the 96 h LC50) and water quality parameters (hardness=120 mg l−1 as CaCO3, pH 8; DOC=3 mg l−1) were kept constant throughout. In the first experiment, trout exposed to sublethal concentrations of cadmium for 24 h displayed significantly lower numbers of aggressive attacks during pair-wise agonistic encounters than fish paired in the copper, nickel, zinc, lead and control water. In a second experiment, fish were exposed to the same concentration of metal for 24 h, and then returned to normal water for 24 h. When these metal pre-exposed fish were paired with non-exposed fish only cadmium pre-exposure had a significant effect on social interaction. All of the cadmium pre-exposed fish became subordinate when paired with non-exposed fish, whereas the probability of a fish pre-exposed to copper, nickel, zinc or lead becoming subordinate did not significantly differ from random. Therefore, at around 15% of the 96 h LC50, different metals exert different effects on the social behaviour of fish, suggesting potential implications for social structure and population stability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-196
Number of pages10
JournalAquatic Toxicology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Cadmium
  • Copper
  • Lead
  • Social behaviour
  • Zinc


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