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Researchers study effect of anti-depressants on New York crawfish

Crawfish generic
Posted at 11:22 AM, Jun 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-20 12:22:51-04

A recent study at the University of Florida took a look at how crawfish react to the low levels of drugs that often are found in the water they inhabit.

The study found that a species of crawfish exposed to low levels of antidepressant medication behaved in ways that could make them more vulnerable to predators.

The article, which appeared in the June 2021 edition of Ecosphere, studied the effect of low levels of the drugs on spinycheek crayfish, which is native to the east coast - from Maine to Virginia. It's a relative of Louisiana's most common crawfish, which are generally red swamp crawfish and white river crawfish. The crawfish in this study were collected from Wappinger Creek, a tributary of the Hudson River in New York.

The researchers recreated an ecosystem for the subject crawfish in the lab, and controlled the level of anti-depressants in the water to a level comparable to those found in their natural habitat.

What they found was the crawfish showed "increased boldness" and took longer to find food. It's possible that the behavior changes could have an effect on the whole ecosystem, they opined. They suggest that more study is needed to see what the ecosystem-wide effects could be.

Specifically, they looked at the effect of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) on crawfish. These drugs are commonly found in surface waters, and are prescribed to increase serotonin levels in patients' brains. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness in humans.

To read the whole paper, click here.

The authors of the paper suggest that humans properly dispose of medications instead of flushing them - but a certain amount of drugs reach our water system because the drugs aren't completely absorbed by the people who take them, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

"Essentially, drugs that people take internally are not all metabolized in the body, and the excess ends up in our wastewater leaving homes and entering the sewage-treatment plants. It might sound surprising that these drugs could be detected in streams miles downstream from wastewater-treatment plants, but many plants do not routinely remove pharmaceuticals from water," the USGS website states.

To read more about that, click here.