Behaviour of freshwater snails (Radix balthica) exposed to the pharmaceutical sertraline under simulated predation risk

Melanie Lea Hedgespeth, Tomasz Karasek, Johan Ahlgren, Olof Berglund, Christer Brönmark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Due to their potential for affecting the modulation of behaviour, effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in the environment are particularly interesting regarding interspecies interactions and non-consumptive effects (NCEs) induced by predator cues in prey organisms. We evaluated the effects of sertraline (0.4, 40 ng/L, 40 µg/L) over 8 days on activity and habitat choice in the freshwater snail Radix balthica, on snails’ boldness in response to mechanical stimulation (simulating predator attack), and their activity/habitat choice in response to chemical cues from predatory fish. We hypothesised that sertraline exposure would detrimentally impact NCEs elicited by predator cues, increasing predation risk. Although there were no effects of sertraline on NCEs, there were observed effects of chemical cue from predatory fish on snail behaviour independent of sertraline exposure. Snails reduced their activity in which the percentage of active snails decreased by almost 50% after exposure to fish cue. Additionally, snails changed their habitat use by moving away from open (exposed) areas. The general lack of effects of sertraline on snails’ activity and other behaviours in this study is interesting considering that other SSRIs have been shown to induce changes in gastropod behaviour. This raises questions on the modes of action of various SSRIs in gastropods, as well as the potential for a trophic “mismatch” of effects between fish predators and snail prey in aquatic systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-153
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Early online date2018 Jan 18
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Evolutionary Biology

Free keywords

  • Behavioural toxicology
  • Boldness
  • Freshwater toxicology
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Predation
  • Snail


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