The focus of most studies in behavioral toxicology has been on effects of chemicals on learning and memory, sensory function, activity, and neuromuscular function. Behavior has also been used as a biomarker of chemical exposure, often without concern for the context in which the behavior was being observed. We have applied the strategies employed in ethological analyses of behavior and developed an alternative, ethotoxicological, approach to the study of effects of endocrine disruptors on behavior. This involves examining whether a behavioral alteration may be pathological from the perspective of the adaptive significance of the behavior under investigation. Pathological changes in behavior lead to reduced social adaptation and impaired responsiveness to environmental demands, with consequences for social structure and population dynamics. It thus follows that the ecological context in which the behavior would normally occur and the function of the behavior are of paramount importance when studying the impact of endocrine disruptors.
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