Interactions of contaminants, stress and physiological consequences in male lesser scaup (aythya affinis) from the northern boreal forest
Pollock, Brady Robert
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In the mid-1980's until the late 1990's, Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)populations in the boreal forest declined and have remained at historical low levels since that time. This has resulted in a population well below conservation goals. Potential causes for this population decline include a reduction in productivity, which could be related to changes in boreal forest habitat, nutritional condition during reproduction, or due to contaminants acquired during migration or wintering. Though several studies have assessed contaminant levels in Lesser Scaup on wintering, staging and migration routes, relatively little data exist from northern boreal forest areas, one of the core breeding habitats of the Lesser Scaup population and where population declines appear to be most severe. To this end,male Lesser Scaup were trapped from sites in the northern boreal forest in 2004 and 2005 to assess trace element contaminant levels. Previous research has shown that trace elements including cadmium and selenium can influence hormonal status in waterfowl. Specifically, a positive relationship between cadmium and corticosterone and a negative correlation between liver selenium and corticosterone have been observed. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that trace element contaminants can influence hormonal status and related physiological functions in male Lesser Scaup, and that interactions between contaminants, physiological variables such as body condition and social status can modify expression of toxic effects. Blood samples were collected from trapped males to assess stress related changes in blood chemistry (corticosterone, testosterone, glucose and thyroxine) and males were then collected for contaminant analysis and assessment of reproductive physiology. The geometric mean levels of kidney cadmium, liver selenium and liver mercury were 9ppm, 4.33 ppm, 1.31 ppm dry weight respectively. Several variables and interactions including pair status, cadmium, selenium, mercury, body condition and body size influenced corticosterone levels. In male Scaup with high cadmium levels, corticosterone was negatively related to liver selenium in birds with good body condition (R2=0.701,n=9, P=0.005) but not in birds with poor body condition (R2=0.033, n=10,P=0.61). Likewise, in birds with high cadmium, a negative association was found between liver mercury and corticosterone in structurally smaller males (R2=0.491,n=10, P=0.024), whereas no such relationship was found in larger males(R2=0.307, n=9, P=0.12). In birds with low cadmium and low mercury, selenium and corticosterone were negatively correlated (R2=0.568, n=10, P=0.012) while no association was found in males with high mercury (R2=0.325, n=10, P=0.085). Unpaired birds had higher corticosterone than in ducks with low cadmium(F1,17=6.70, P=0.023), while there was no difference between groups in ducks with high cadmium. Glucose levels were not influenced by contaminants or other variables in this study (R2=0.551, F21,17=0.99, P=0.51). Thyroxine levels were positively correlated to mercury levels in paired birds (R2=0.485, n=19, P
DegreeMaster of Science (M.Sc.)
SupervisorMachin, Karen L.
Copyright DateMay 2007