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BEWARE: Chemical in Water Bottles Could Induce Behavioral Changes in Painted Turtles

Aug 24, 2016 04:46 AM EDT
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A new study from the University of Missouri reveals that a chemical used in many consumer products, including water bottles, metal food storage products and certain resins, could potentially reprogram the brain of male painted turtles, making them behave and act like females.

Previously, the same team of researchers has discovered that the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) and ethinyl estradiol (EE2) could change the sexual orientation of painted turtles, making male turtles develop female sex organs. Now, a new study published in the journal Hormones and Behavior showed that BPA could also alter the brain of male turtles to exhibit certain behaviors common in females.

"Studies have shown that exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), such as BPA, can override incubation temperature and switch the sex of males to females," explained Cheryl Rosenfeld, an associate professor of biomedical sciences in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine and an investigator in the Bond Life Sciences Center, in a statement. In our latest study, we found that BPA also affects how the male brain is 'wired,' potentially inducing males to show female type behavioral patterns."

For the study, the researchers applied a liquid form of BPA and ethinyl estradiol to painted turtle eggs and incubated the eggs at a temperature that typically results in males. The researchers conducted a spatial navigational test to the turtles five months after being hatched.

Surprisingly, the male turtles who were exposed to BPA and EE2 have improved spatial navigational learning and memory, a character trait that is more dominant among female turtles.

Despite improving the male turtles' ability to navigate, the researchers are worried that the female-like behavior of the turtles could also affect their adulthood. Researchers noted that once the exposed turtles reached adulthood, they might not exhibit courtship behavior needed to attract a mate and reproduce. This change in behavior could potentially result to a dramatic decline in their population.

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