In egg composition of american kestrels to dietary polychlorinated biphenyls

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Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health - Part A





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Changes in the quality of eggs of birds exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been described, but have never been directly attributed to PCBs. Polychlorinated biphenyl residues in eggs have been associated with reduced reproductive success and embryonic deformities in wild birds. Egg size and composition, specifically the amount of albumen, yolk, and waterin an egg, also influence the growth and viability of embryos and hatchlings, and consequently the reproductive success of birds. To deter mine whether PCB exposure of adult birds affected the size and composition of their eggs, 25 pairs of captive American kestrels (Falco sparverius) were fed a mixture of PCB-spiked (1248:1254:1260) food to give an approximate exposure of 7 mg/kg body weight/d, beginning 1 mo prior to pairing, and continuing throughout the courtship, egg-laying, and incubation periods. This dietary level in the adult female kestrels resulted in mean total PCB residues in the eggs of 34.1 µg/g wet weight (geometric mean), which is environmentally relevant. PCB residues in eggs increased with the time of female exposure to the contaminated diet and laying date. Variation in egg size within PCB clutches was significantly greater than within control clutches, although absolute egg mass and volume did not differ markedly by treatment. Only infertile eggs and only one egg per clutch were used for egg composition analysis. Yolks in the PCB-contaminated eggs were heavier, with less wet and dry albumen relative to control eggs. Water content and eggshell thickness were not significantly affected by PCB exposure. These results suggest that eggs from the PCB treatment have relatively more lipid and less protein available for embryonic development. Changes in egg composition were not associated with egg size, lay date, ambient temperature, humidity, or precipitation, which arefactors known to affect these variables in bird eggs. The PCB-induced changes in egg composition described here provide insight into possible mechanisms contributing to reduced reproductiveperformance in wild birds exposed to PCBs. © 2000 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.