Pollution Causes Animals to Act All Freaky

It seems to some folks that humans behave in more and more bizarre fashion these days, but animals have tended to go about their animal business in a generally ordinary fashion. No more: Ubiquitous chemical pollutants known as endocrine disruptors — everything from heavy metals to PCBs — are altering animal behavior in zany ways. Male gulls are trying to mate with each other. Goldfish are hyperactive. Macaques are roughhousing more roughly. Newts can’t find each other to mate. It’s kind of funny, only not. According to two major new reviews in the journal Animal Behaviour, these behavioral disruptions could pose a larger threat to animals’ survival than previously thought. The researchers say different concentrations of pollutants can cause different, sometimes contradictory, behaviors, and they argue it’s high time for biologists and toxicologists to work together more closely. “The most important point” of the studies, says researcher Dustin Penn, “is the incredible amount of evidence that this is a widespread problem.”