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Environ Sci Technol. 2013 Jun 4;47(11):5963-70. doi: 10.1021/es400442q. Epub 2013 May 14.

Dietary versus maternal sources of organochlorines in top predator seabird chicks: an experimental approach.

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Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Fram Centre, 9296 Tromsø, Norway.


We examined the relative importance of dietary sources and maternal transfer on organochlorine concentrations (∑OCs) in Great skua chicks (Stercorarius skua) in Shetland by food supplementing parents with known wintering area. We predicted that experimental chicks (whose parents were supplemented) should have (i) higher growth rates and, (ii) lower ∑OCs due to growth dilution effect and/or due to being fed with less contaminated food compared to control chicks. We also predicted a significant influence of maternal wintering area on chicks' ∑OCs. Plasma ∑OCs of adults, assessed prior to the manipulation, significantly differed between wintering areas of birds. Chicks were weighed every 5 days and plasma ∑OCs were assessed at 20 days old. Based on nitrogen and carbon stable isotope analysis, the supplementary food contributed on average 20% of the dietary protein of the chicks. Although experimental chicks experienced better developmental conditions, supplementary food did not alleviate their organochlorine burden. Nevertheless, chicks whose mothers wintered in Europe showed ∑OCs 50% higher than chicks whose mothers wintered in Africa. Moreover, based on the positive relationship between ∑OCs of chicks and females, the contaminant load of Great skua chicks in Shetland appears to be more influenced by maternal transfer than by trophic transfer.

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