Pollution and predation are two omnipresent stressors in aquatic systems that can interact in multiple ways, thereby challenging accurate assessment of the effects of pollutants in natural systems. Despite the widespread occurrence of morphological antipredator mechanisms, no studies have tested how these can affect the sensitivity of prey to pesticides. Sensitivity to pesticides is typically measured via reductions in growth rates and survival, but also reductions in heat tolerance are to be expected and are becoming increasingly important in a warming world. We investigated how autotomy, a widespread morphological antipredator mechanism where animals sacrifice a body part (here the caudal lamellae) to escape when attacked by a predator, modified the sensitivity to the insecticide chlorpyrifos in larvae of the damselfly Coenagrion puella. Exposure to chlorpyrifos reduced the growth rate and heat tolerance (measured as CTmax). A key finding was that the pesticide had a greater impact on growth rates of intact animals, i.e. those that retained their lamellae. This reduced sensitivity to chlorpyrifos in animals without lamellae can be explained by the reduced outer surface area which is expected to result in a lower uptake of the pesticide. Larvae that underwent autotomy exhibited a lower heat tolerance, which may also be explained by the reduced surface area and the associated reduction in oxygen uptake. There is a wide diversity of morphological antipredator mechanisms, suggesting that there will be more examples where these mechanisms affect the vulnerability to pollutants. Given the importance of pollution and predation as structuring forces in aquatic food webs, exploring the potential interactions between morphological antipredator mechanisms and sensitivity to pollutants will be crucial for risk assessment of pollutants in aquatic systems.
Science of the Total Environment – Elsevier
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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