Browsing by Subject "bio-ja ympäristötieteet"

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  • Saaristo, Minna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2009)
    In aquatic environments, endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that interfere with the endocrinology of males and females form a threat to the maintenance of populations. EDCs are a diverse group of natural and manmade chemicals that already at very low concentrations (at nanogram levels) can have severe effects on reproduction by individuals, e.g. complete sex reversal, feminisation of males, impaired reproduction even resulting in near extinction of populations. With regard to fish, despite the extensive literature on physiological effects of EDCs, very little is known about potential population-level effects. In this thesis, I examined how 17α-ethinyl estradiol (EE2), a synthetic estrogen used in oral contraceptive pills, affects the reproductive behaviour of a marine fish, the sand goby (Pomatoschistus minutus). The aims were fourfold. First, I investigated how exposure to EE2 affects courtship and parental care of sand goby males. Secondly, I looked at effects on the mating system and sexual selection. In the third study, I observed the effects of exposure in a social context where exposed males had to compete with non-exposed males for resources and mates. Finally, I studied the effects of exposure on male-male competition and male aggressive behaviour. This work revealed that EE2 exposure impairs the ability of males to acquire and defend a nest, as well as diminishes the attractiveness of males to females by decreasing their courtship and aggressive behaviour. These effects are harmful for a male whose reproductive success is determined by the ability to compete for limited resources and to attract mates. Furthermore, this thesis showed that selection on male size was relaxed after EE2 exposure and male size had a smaller effect on mating success. These effects can be of a profound nature as they interfere with sexual selection, and may in the long run lead to the loss of traits maintained through sexual selection. The thesis shows that an exposure to environmentally relevant levels of EE2 clearly reduces the chances of individuals to reproduce successfully. Furthermore, it strongly suggests that several types of biomarkers should be used to detect and assess the effects of EDC exposure because severe behavioural effects can sometimes be seen before effects are detectable at the molecular or morphometric level. Behavioural assays should be considered an important complementary tool for the standard ecotoxicological assays because observed behavioural changes have direct and negative effects on fitness, while the connection between changes in molecular expression and fitness may be less obvious.