Salinity changes the dynamics of pyrethroid toxicity in terms of behavioral effects on newly hatched delta smelt larvae

Amelie Segarra, Florian Mauduit, Nermeen R. Amer, Felix Biefel, Michelle L. Hladik, Richard E. Connon, Susanne M. Brander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Salinity can interact with organic compounds and modulate their toxicity. Studies have shown that the fraction of pyrethroid insecticides in the aqueous phase increases with increasing salinity, potentially increasing the risk of exposure for aquatic organisms at higher salinities. In the San Francisco Bay Delta (SFBD) estuary, pyrethroid concentrations increase during the rainy season, coinciding with the spawning season of Delta Smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus), an endangered, endemic fish. Furthermore, salinity intrusion in the SFBD is exacerbated by global climate change, which may change the dynamics of pyrethroid toxicity on aquatic animals. Therefore, examining the effect of salinity on the sublethal toxicity of pyrethroids is essential for risk assessments, especially during the early life stages of estuarine fishes. To address this, we investigated behavioral effects of permethrin and bifenthrin at three environmentally relevant concentrations across a salinity gradient (0.5, 2 and 6 PSU) on Delta Smelt yolk-sac larvae. Our results suggest that environmentally relevant concentrations of pyrethroids can perturb Delta Smelt larvae behavior even at the lowest concentrations (<1 ng/L) and that salinity can change the dynamic of pyrethroid toxicity in terms of behavioral effects, especially for bifenthrin, where salinity was positively correlated with anti-thigmotaxis at each concentration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number40
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Behavior
  • Endangered species
  • Estuary
  • Fish
  • Global climate change
  • Ifenthrin
  • Multiple stressors
  • Permethrin
  • Pesticide
  • Thigmotaxis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Chemical Health and Safety


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