The role of animal behaviour in the study of endocrine-disrupting chemicals

Ethan D. Clotfelter, Alison M. Bell, Kate R. Levering

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Numerous chemicals are known to interfere with the endocrine systems of animals. These chemicals, commonly referred to as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (hereafter EDCs), pose a particularly severe threat to animal health. They accumulate in body tissues and are highly persistent in the environment and thus can occur at significant concentrations far from their points of origin. Ecotoxicologists have used a number of animal species to identify physiological and morphological consequences of EDC exposure. Effects of exposure have typically been measured in terms of survival, development or aspects of reproductive anatomy and physiology. In recent years, ecotoxicologists have begun using behavioural endpoints as components of standard toxicological assays. There has been a concurrent although less widespread interest among animal behaviourists in understanding and studying the effects of these contaminants on animal behaviour. The purposes of this review are four-fold. First, we provide a primer on EDCs. Second, we summarize current knowledge about endocrine disruption of animal behaviour. Third, we describe the role that we envision for behaviour in the field of ecotoxicology. Finally, we hope to stimulate a dialogue between animal behaviourists and ecotoxicologists that will enhance our understanding of these environmental contaminants and their impacts on animal populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)665-676
Number of pages12
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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