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Environ Toxicol Chem. 2003 Jun;22(6):1394-403.

Demography of short-tailed shrew populations living on polychlorinated biphenyl-contaminated sites.

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Division of Life Sciences, University of Toronto at Scarborough, 1265 Military Trail, Scarborough, Ontario M1C 1A4, Canada.


In ecological risk assessment, a key necessity is to understand how contaminants known to have negative impact on laboratory mammals affect the population demography of mammals living in their natural environment. We examined the demography of six local populations of the short-tailed shrew (Blarina brevicauda) living in eastern deciduous forest palustrine habitat along the Housatonic River (MA, USA) on soils contaminated with a range of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) concentrations (1.5-38.3 ppm). The objective of the study was to assess whether PCBs adversely affect the population demography of these small mammals living in their natural environment. Blarina were selected for study because they would be expected to readily bioaccumulate PCBs from the soil. Populations were intensively live trapped on 1-ha grids from spring to autumn 2001. There was no relationship between any demographic parameter and PCB soil concentrations. Densities were high (usually exceeding 20/ha, and on two grids exceeded 60/ha in summer); survival was good (typically 60-75% per 30 d); and sex ratio, reproduction rates, growth rates, and body mass were within the ranges reported in the literature. Thus, these shrew populations showed no detectable impact on their population demography from living on PCB-contaminated sites.

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