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Care of Nestlings by Wild Female Starlings Exposed to an Organophosphate Pesticide

Christian E. Grue, George v. N. Powell and Michael J. McChesney
Journal of Applied Ecology
Vol. 19, No. 2 (Aug., 1982), pp. 327-335
DOI: 10.2307/2403470
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2403470
Page Count: 9
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Care of Nestlings by Wild Female Starlings Exposed to an Organophosphate Pesticide
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Abstract

(1) Our objective was to determine the effect of exposure to an organophosphate pesticide (OP), dicrotophos (3-hydroxy-N,N-dimethyl-cis-scrotonamide dimethyl phosphate), on care of nestlings by wild female starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). (2) We selected twelve pairs of active nests based on synchrony in the reproductive cycle. When nestlings were 10 days old (day 10), adult males were captured and killed and brood size was adjusted to four. The frequency and temporal distribution of sorties made by each pair of females to feed their young were recorded for 2 h at 18.00 hours on day 11 and 06.00 hours on day 12. One female from each pair was given a single oral dose of dicrotophos (2·5 mg/kg of body weight) dissolved in corn oil; the second female received an equivalent exposure of pure corn oil. Birds were released and their nestlings weighed. Parental care was again monitored between 18.00 and 20.00 hours on day 12 and 06.00 and 08.00 hours on day 13. Females were then captured and they with their young were weighed and killed. Changes in parental care in OP-dosed and control females were compared using paired t-tests. (3) The OP-dosed females made significantly (P < 0·05) fewer sorties to feed their young and remained away from their boxes for longer periods of time than controls. Nestlings of OP-treated females lost significantly more weight (X̄ = 9·3%) than nestlings of controls (X̄ = 3·2%). Brain ChE activity in OP-treated females was inhibited an average of 50·7% compared with controls. Weight changes in OP-dosed (X̄ = -8·9%) and control females (X̄ = -8·3%) were similar. (4) Results indicate that parental care may be significantly reduced in songbirds receiving severe but sublethal exposure to organophosphate pesticides. The potential for a reduction or modification in parental care to alter reproductive success in passerines is discussed. (5) Techniques utilized, or modifications thereof, may be useful in collecting the additional data needed to adequately assess the impact of OPs on songbird reproduction.

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