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Woodlouse locomotor behavior in the assessment of clean and contaminated field sites



Specimens of the woodlouse Oniscus asellus were collected at four clean field sites and from a recently closed iron foundry heavily contaminated with zinc, lead, chromium, and nickel. Each of the 30 woodlice per group was housed individually and acclimatized to laboratory conditions for 2 d on a humid plaster of paris substrate. Thereafter, the locomotor behavior of each animal was measured for 4 h employing automated computer-aided video tracking. Linear discriminant analysis of five locomotor parameters revealed average velocity and path length as the principle components separating the polluted site and control animals. Post hoc analysis of the discriminant variable for animals from all five sites showed that the animals from the polluted site where significantly hyperactive when compared to all controls. Further, control animals collected from sites separated by several hundred kilometers were remarkably similar in their locomotor behavior. This preliminary study highlights the potential utility of quantitative analysis of animal locomotor behavior in environmental monitoring.