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Sci Total Environ. 2009 Aug 1;407(16):4764-70. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2009.04.045. Epub 2009 May 17.

Effects of laying order and experimentally increased egg production on organic pollutants in eggs of a terrestrial songbird species, the great tit (Parus major).

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, 2610 Wilrijk, Belgium. evi.vandensteen@ua.ac.be


In this study, concentrations and profiles of organic pollutants were investigated in a passerine species with a large clutch size, the great tit (Parus major). In the first clutches, mean egg concentrations decreased significantly in relation to the laying order from 3025+/-416 ng/g lw to 2267+/-386 ng/g lw for sum PCBs and from 989+/-339 ng/g lw to 695+/-320 ng/g lw for sum DDTs. Sum PBDE concentrations also decreased in relation to the laying order from 68+/-10 ng/g lw to 53+/-11 ng/g lw, but not significantly. Although laying order effects were found, variation in concentrations within clutches was smaller than among clutches. To further investigate the impact of laying large numbers of eggs on levels and profiles of organic pollutants, initiation of replacement clutches was experimentally induced. Mean sum PCB and sum PBDE concentrations were significantly lower in eggs of replacement clutches compared to first clutches. In addition, first clutches had a higher contribution of the higher chlorinated and more persistent PCB congeners, CB 170, 180 and 183, and a lower contribution of CB 52, 95 and 149 compared to replacement clutches. Because of the differences in concentrations and profiles between the first and replacement clutches, the combined use of eggs from both the first and replacement clutches for monitoring purposes is not recommended. In conclusion, we suggest that, due to the larger variation among clutches compared to the variation within clutches, one randomly collected great tit egg from a first clutch is useful as a biomonitoring tool for organic pollutants. To our knowledge, this is the first study in which the impact of an experimentally increased clutch size on the levels and profiles of contaminants in eggs has been investigated.

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