Washington State University researchers have found that salmon face a double whammy when they swim in the stormwater runoff of urban roadways.
First, as scientists learned a couple years ago, toxic pollution in the water can kill them. WSU researchers have now determined that fish that survive polluted stormwater are still at risk.
Experiments on both larval zebrafish, a model for salmon, and actual coho salmon showed that toxic runoff can also damage hair-like sensors the fish use to find food, sense predators, and find their way in the current.
“We’re showing that even if the fish are surviving the stormwater exposure, they still might not be able to detect the world around them as well, which can make it harder for them to find food or more likely for them to get eaten,” said Allison Coffin, an assistant professor of neuroscience at WSU Vancouver.
Coffin’s findings appear in Scientific Reports, an open-access journal from the publishers of Nature. Her co-authors include Jenifer McIntyre, a WSU aquatic ecotoxicologist who was part of a team that in 2011 found toxic runoff is killing adult coho in urban watersheds.
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