Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 24, Issue 19, pp 16086–16096 | Cite as

Evaluation of the sensitivity spectrum of a video tracking system with zebrafish (Danio rerio) exposed to five different toxicants

  • João Amorim
  • Miguel Fernandes
  • Vitor Vasconcelos
  • Luis Oliva Teles
Research Article


The aim of this study was to develop a biological early warning system for the detection of aquatic toxicity and test it with five toxicants with distinct chemical nature. This was done in order to verify the spectrum of sensitivities of the proposed system, as well as the potential identification capability of the tested contaminants, using only the analysis of zebrafish’s behavior. Six experimental conditions were tested: negative control and five toxicants (bleach, lindane, tributyltin, mercury, and formaldehyde). The exposure time was 45 min, and the concentrations used corresponded to 9% of LC50’s-96 h for the tested compounds, to ensure ecologically relevant results. A total of 108 fish were used, with each individual experimental condition being tested 18 times. A statistical model of diagnosis was used, combining self-organizing map and correspondence analysis. The values of sensitivity, specificity, accuracy, false positive, false negative, positive predictive value (PPV), and negative predictive value (NPV) were calculated. The objectives of the work were accomplished and the system showed a good overall diagnostic performance with 79% in accuracy, 77% in sensitivity, and 88% in specificity. The lowest result of the predictive values was 78% (lindane and mercury), in the case of the NPV, and 86% (bleach and lindane), in the case of the PPV. The best result of the predictive values was 100% (bleach and tributyltin), for the NPV, and 89% (tributyltin), for the PPV. Regarding the five tested toxicants, the system was able to correctly identify the agent responsible for the contamination in 40% of the positive diagnoses.


Biological early warning system (BEWS) Neural network Self-organizing map Toxicant identification Video tracking Zebrafish (Danio rerio



This article is a result of project INNOVMAR-Innovation and Sustainability in the Management and Exploitation of Marine Resources (reference NORTE-01-0145-FEDER-000035), supported by North Portugal Regional Operational Programme (NORTE 2020), under the PORTUGAL 2020 Partnership Agreement, through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Compliance with ethical standards

This study complied with the European Directive 2010/63/EU (2010) and National Guidelines Decreto-Lei 113/2013 (2013) on animal experiments as well as with the principles of the 3R guidelines (refinement, replacement, and reduction of animal use). No animals were sacrificed in the course of this study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


This research was partially funded by UID/Multi/04423/2013 project from Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia. The funding source had no involvement in any process of the experience.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de BiologiaFaculdade de Ciências da Universidade do PortoPortoPortugal
  2. 2.CIIMAR, Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e AmbientalMatosinhosPortugal

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