Data from: Environmental estrogens cause predation-induced population decline in a freshwater fish
Rearick, Daniel C.; Ward, Jessica; Venturelli, Paul; Schoenfuss, Heiko (2018), Data from: Environmental estrogens cause predation-induced population decline in a freshwater fish, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.kk94gp2
Understanding population-level effects of environmental stressors on aquatic biota requires knowledge of the direct adverse effects of pollutants on individuals and species interactions that relate to survival and reproduction. Here, we connect behavioral assays with survival trials and a modeling approach to quantify changes in antipredator escape performance of a larval freshwater fish following exposure to an environmental estrogen, and predict changes in population abundance. We quantified the effects of short-term (21 d) exposure to 17-β estradiol (E2) on the antipredator escape performance of larval fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) and the probability of predation by a natural predator, the bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus). Compared with unexposed minnows, minnows exposed to environmentally relevant concentrations of E2 that approach total estrogenic activity of waste-water dominated environments (38 and 103 ng/L) had delayed response times and slower escape speeds, and were more susceptible to predation. Incorporating these data into a stage-structured population model demonstrated that enhanced predation mortality at the larval stage is sufficient to generate marked population declines. These results indicate that subtle, sub-lethal shifts in the behavior of individuals due to human-mediated environmental change can impact species interactions with measurable population-level effects. Such changes have the potential to alter higher-order trophic interactions and disrupt aquatic communities.