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Antibiotic pollution harms pond snails’ ability to learn
“If we find this effect in snails, it is highly likely that antibiotics are having similar effects on other aquatic animals” – Sarah Dalesman.
Study finds disruption to gut microbiome affects memory formation.

Water polluted with antibiotics can stop pond snails from forming new memories by disrupting their gut microbiome, a new study has found.

Researchers from the University of East Anglia and Aberystwyth University found that snails in clean water were much better at learning to avoid contaminated food than those in water polluted with high concentrations of antibiotics.

The study adds to the growing body of research on the negative impact of antibiotic pollution, with the researchers calling for more to be done to stop the chemicals entering the environment.

During the study, the pond snails (Lymnaea stagnalis) were given carrot juice, a favourite food, which had been paired with a chemical (potassium chloride) that is an aversive stimulus for the species.

The snails in the clean water quickly learned that the carrot juice was no longer safe to eat and avoided it. However, the snails in the polluted water failed to remember. This impact on their memory could hurt their survival chances in the wild.

Sarah Dalesman, a lecturer in freshwater biology at Aberystwyth University and co-author of the study, said: “Previous research has found pond snails have to learn about predators, what is good or bad to eat, and even remember who they have mated with.

“Anything that interferes with their memory will reduce their survival.”

The study found that the antibiotics in the water had changed the gut microbiome of the snails, altering the levels of certain bacteria that have been found to have a connection with memory formation in other animals.

Previous studies have shown a link between the gut microbiome and brain function in terrestrial species, but this is the first time that this has been shown to be the case in pond snails.

The concentration of antibiotics the snails were exposed to was similar to those detected in freshwater in the UK and other parts of the world.

Dr Dalesman added: “If we find this effect in snails, it is highly likely that antibiotics are having similar effects on other aquatic animals.

“We hope this study prompts greater emphasis on the importance of healthy gut microbiomes for wildlife and increases efforts to reduce the chemicals entering our environment.”

The study has been published in The ISME Journal: Multidisciplinary Journal of Microbial Ecology.

Image © Shutterstock

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Charities' XL bully neutering scheme closes

News Story 1
 A scheme that helped owners of XL bully dogs with the cost of neutering has closed to new applications due to high demand.

The scheme, run by the RSPCA, Blue Cross, and Battersea, has helped 1,800 dogs and their owners after XL bullies were banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

In England and Wales, owners of XL bully dogs which were over one year old on 31 January 2021 have until 30 June 2024 to get their dog neutered. If a dog was between seven months and 12 months old, it must be neutered by 31 December 2024. If it was under seven months old, owners have until 30 June 2025.

More information can be found on the Defra website. 

Click here for more...
News Shorts
Avian flu cattle outbreak spreads to tenth US state

Cattle in two dairy herds in Iowa have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), making it the tenth state in the USA to be affected by the ongoing outbreak of the disease in cattle.

Since March 2024, more than 80 herds across the USA have been affected by the virus and three dairy workers have tested positive. Authorities have introduced measures to limit the spread of the virus and farmers have been urged to strengthen their biosecurity protocols.

Mike Naig, Iowa secretary of agriculture, said: "Given the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza within dairy cattle in many other states, it is not a surprise that we would have a case given the size of our dairy industry in Iowa.

"While lactating dairy cattle appear to recover with supportive care, we know this destructive virus continues to be deadly for poultry."