The Insecticide Imidacloprid Causes Mortality of the Freshwater Amphipod Gammarus pulex by Interfering with Feeding Behavior
If an organism does not feed, it dies of starvation. Even though some insecticides which are used to control pests in agriculture can interfere with feeding behavior of insects and other invertebrates, the link from chemical exposure via affected feeding activity to impaired life history traits, such as survival, has not received much attention in ecotoxicology. One of these insecticides is the neonicotinoid imidacloprid, a neurotoxic substance acting specifically on the insect nervous system. We show that imidacloprid has the potential to indirectly cause lethality in aquatic invertebrate populations at low, sublethal concentrations by impairing movements and thus feeding. We investigated feeding activity, lipid content, immobility, and survival of the aquatic arthropod Gammarus pulex under exposure to imidacloprid. We performed experiments with 14 and 21 days duration, both including two treatments with two high, one day pulses of imidacloprid and one treatment with a low, constant concentration. Feeding of G. pulex as well as lipid content were significantly reduced under exposure to the low, constant imidacloprid concentration (15 mu g/L). Organisms were not able to move and feed - and this caused high mortality after 14 days of constant exposure. In contrast, feeding and lipid content were not affected by repeated imidacloprid pulses. In these treatments, animals were mostly immobilized during the chemical pulses but did recover relatively fast after transfer to clean water. We also performed a starvation experiment without exposure to imidacloprid which showed that starvation alone does not explain the mortality in the constant imidacloprid exposure. Using a multiple stressor toxicokinetic-toxicodynamic modeling approach, we showed that both starvation and other toxic effects of imidacloprid play a role for determining mortality in constant exposure to the insecticide.