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Environ Pollut. 2005 Feb;133(3):531-40.

Differential swimming performance of two natricine snakes exposed to a cholinesterase-inhibiting pesticide.

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University of Georgia, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, Wildlife Ecotoxicology and Physiological Ecology Program, PO Drawer E, Aiken, SC 29802, USA.


Environmental contaminants have direct effects on organisms at the molecular, cellular, and tissue levels, but the net results of these sub-organismal effects are only consequential to exposed populations if they alter organism-level traits that ultimately influence fitness (e.g., growth, locomotor performance, reproduction, and survival). Here, we explore the possibility that the swimming performance of neonate black swamp snakes (Seminatrix pygaea) and diamondback water snakes (Nerodia rhombifer) may be affected by exposure to carbaryl (2.5 and 5.0 mg/L). The highest concentration of carbaryl caused greater reductions in swim velocity in S. pygaea than in N. rhombifer. Most individuals recovered from the effects of carbaryl on swimming performance within 96 h, but recovery was significantly slower in S. pygaea than in N. rhombifer. We hypothesize that the sensitivity of S. pygaea may arise from its highly permeable integument compared to other natricines. Our findings suggest that performance can serve as an ecologically relevant response to contaminant exposure in reptiles and warrants further study.

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