Insecticides are extensively used in Switzerland and all over the world to control pests and pathogens in medicine, households, and agriculture. Via spray drift, leaching or run-off they find their way into the aquatic environment where they pose a risk to non-target organisms, such as fish. Toxic effects from insecticides can occur at different organizational levels and may range from easily observable lethal to very subtle behavioral effects. As most insecticides are designed to interfere with neuronal signaling, they are able to adversely affect sensory processing and motor outputs in the fish with extensive ecological consequences.
We are investigating whether different classes of insecticides lead to attractive or aversive responses of zebrafish larvae, and are additionally interested in the neuronal mechanism underlying the observed behavioral response. We aim to better understand how insecticides change natural behavioral responses of fish in order to better predict their impact on the ecosystem.
Moreover, we are interested in how insecticides affect the fish’s developing nervous system. Therefore, we are assessing locomotor behavior of larval zebrafish which have been exposed to insecticides during different stages of their development. Using imaging and molecular methods we would not only like to understand the cause underlying the locomotion defects, but also whether there are critical periods during the development and to what extent adverse effects can be reversed.