Developmental abnormalities in wild populations of birds : examples from lesser snow geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens). American Museum novitates ; no. 3400

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New York, NY : American Museum of Natural History
Changes in the frequency of individuals with gross abnormalities can be used as an indicator of changes in the occurrence of biologically significant levels of developmental toxicants in the habitats of natural populations. The precise nature of the defects and their relative distribution can often provide clues as to the type of contamination. Such inferences clearly require baseline data on the frequency of such deformities, and that is the purpose of this paper. For Mid-continent lesser snow geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) nesting at La Pérouse Bay, the current rate of gross external abnormalities among embryos and near-hatch goslings at hatch is 3.937 x 10⁻⁴ per egg (95% confidence limits 1.7053 x 10⁻⁴ to 6.507 x 10⁻⁴) and is consistent with estimates made for other species in minimally or uncontaminated habitats. Among the abnormal specimens, however, the relative distribution of defects of the beak and eye is not consistent with rates of spontaneous abnormalities reported for chickens. If the higher relative frequency of beak defects persists in future or other geographic samples displaying overall levels of abnormalities higher than our benchmark, then contaminants acting as type 1 teratogens should be suspected. Of the compounds this increasingly agriculturally dependent species is exposed to, insecticides rather than herbicides would be the more likely class of candidates. We urge others who may have similar data on other species to make it more broadly available since such benchmarks are crucial for the use of birds as bioindicators of environmental conditions. To that end, we offer our web site as a place where data on and images of abnormal specimens can be posted and, within certain constraints, will curate submitted specimens.
14 p. : ill. ; 26 cm.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 12-14).