Ultraviolet Filters Reduce Swimming Speed and Body Length in Offspring of Exposed Daphnia magna

Hannah Gracy

Authors:  Hannah Gracy, Faith Lambert, Chris Vulpe

Faculty Mentor: Faith Lambert

College:  College of Veterinary Medicine


Organic ultraviolet filters (UV-Fs) are a source of growing concern in the field of ecotoxicology due to their ability to mimic estrogens. They are commonly found in sunscreens and other personal care products (PCPs). UV-Fs enter the aquatic environment when a person who has applied a UV-F-containing PCP enters a natural body of water. The three UV-F compounds we analyzed in this study have been established as endocrine disruptors in vertebrates: benzophenone 3 (BP3), 4-methylbenzylidene camphor (4MBC), and octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC). However, their impact on invertebrates has not been well-studied. The goal of this study was to determine the effects of these three chemicals on the swimming speed and body length of Daphnia magna, a common model organism. After performing a 21-day chronic assay, a behavioral assay, and subsequent body length measurements, we determined that D. magna neonates that were exposed to BP3 and 4MBC were significantly slower and shorter than unexposed neonates. Neonates exposed to OMC did not differ significantly from controls. These results illustrate how exposure to UV-Fs could make D. magna more vulnerable to predation and less capable of competing for resources. As D. magna are common model organisms, these results could be generalized to larger crustaceans.

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Kasandra Camejo
Kasandra Camejo (@guest_312)
1 year ago

I have heard before about how sunscreens can negatively affect marine life, but I had only ever heard about how they affect corals. I found your poster and research super interesting!
My question for you is how did you get involved in this research? What advice do you have for a student that is interested in doing a research with UF Vet med?

Hannah Gracy
Hannah Gracy (@guest_478)
Reply to  Kasandra Camejo
1 year ago

Hello Kasandra!
Thanks for your feedback. I’m from the keys, so I’ve always had an interest in the health of marine ecosystems. When I was looking for research opportunities at UF, I tried to find a lab that focused on environmental health in some way. I saw that they were looking for undergraduate research assistants at the Vulpe Lab (which is at the Center for Human and Environmental Toxicology) so I applied and got a position. Everyone over there is super nice, and they give you a lot of opportunities to explore your interests. One of their PhD students was researching UV-Fs, so I began working with her and eventually she helped me complete this project!
If you’re looking to do research with UF Vet Med, I might contact someone at the Vulpe Lab. I believe that they have a few people over there who are associated with that college, but many others who are affiliated with different departments. For example, I’m a student in the College of Public Health and Health Professions, and I know there are a few other PHHP people over there. If you have any more questions about research with them, let me know! My email is on the poster. Thanks again!

Alexandra Rubin
Alexandra Rubin (@guest_606)
1 year ago

Hi Hannah,

I thought your research was really interesting! I try my best to be as eco friendly as I can but never thought about how my sunscreen could affect the aquatic environment I go in. So thank you for teaching me something today! I notice you conducted research on small crustaceans, do you think they are effected by this because they are smaller? Do you think a larger aquatic animal would be effected in the same way?

Hannah Gracy
Hannah Gracy (@guest_1062)
Reply to  Alexandra Rubin
1 year ago

Hi Alexandra,
Thanks for your question! My understanding is that Daphnia are more sensitive to these chemicals than a larger organism would be, but the pathway that regulates molting in them is the same pathway that regulates molting in larger crustaceans. These chemicals disrupt that pathway, so although it might take a larger concentration of UV-Fs to produce the same effects, they would likely be impacted in the same way. Other researchers have found pretty large concentrations of these chemicals in natural bodies of water, so we should definitely be concerned about larger aquatic organisms.
Additionally, there have been many studies that have tested the effects of UV-Fs on vertebrate animals, and their results indicate that UV-Fs disrupt the endocrine systems of many different species of larger organisms, just not in the same way they impact Daphnia. If you have any other questions please let me know!

Nicole Abruzzo
Nicole Abruzzo (@guest_5998)
1 year ago

Hi Hannah,

This is the most interesting project I’ve seen yet! Do you have any suggestions about how to avoid leeching these chemicals into aquatic environments? Should people use less sunscreen or not go swimming in natural areas?
Thanks, miss you!

Hannah Gracy
Hannah Gracy (@guest_7164)
Reply to  Nicole Abruzzo
1 year ago

Hi Nicole, it’s great to hear from you! Thanks for your question, I think we all know that enjoying natural areas is important, but it’s difficult to know what products are safe to use. Fortunately, there are a few sunscreen brands that are free of endocrine-disrupting UV-Fs. Additionally, just using Zinc as a sunscreen is a good option!
Thanks for commenting, miss you too!