Copper Found to Make Salmon More Vulnerable to Predators

Minute amounts of copper from brake linings and mining operations can affect salmon to where they are easily eaten by predators, says a Washington State University researcher.

Jenifer McIntyre found the metal affects salmon’s sense of smell so much that they won’t detect a compound that ordinarily alerts them to be still and wary.

“A copper-exposed fish is not getting the information it needs to make good decisions,” says Ms McIntyre, a postdoctoral research associate in WSU’s Puyallup Research and Extension Center. Her research, conducted for a University of Washington doctorate with colleagues at UW and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, appears in the latest issue of the journal Ecological Applications.

Earlier research showed that copper impacts a salmon’s sense of smell. Other research showed that when a salmon’s sense of smell is affected, its behavior changes.

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