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Organochlorine Levels Associated with a Common Murre Die-off in Oregon

J. Michael Scott, John A. Wiens and Robert R. Claeys
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Vol. 39, No. 2 (Apr., 1975), pp. 310-320
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
DOI: 10.2307/3799908
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3799908
Page Count: 11
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Organochlorine Levels Associated with a Common Murre Die-off in Oregon
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Abstract

During the summer of 1969 an abnormally high mortality of common murres (Uria aalge) was observed on the Oregon coast. Autopsy of dead birds suggested that drowning was the proximate cause of death. The body weights of dead males collected during the die-off period were significantly lower (x̄ = 706 g) than those of healthy birds collected at the same time (x̄ = 898 g) or in August of the following year (x̄ = 1,181 g). Analyses for chlorinated hydrocarbons revealed an average p,p′-DDE concentration of 8.7 ppm wet weight in brain tissues of dead birds, whereas the level in healthy birds collected at the same time was 1.1 ppm. The ratio of p,p′-DDE in brain and muscle tissues (p,p′-DDE brain/p,p′-DDE muscle) averaged 28 in dead birds collected during the die-off. Collections of living birds in the summer of 1970 when there was no die-off indicated an average p,p′-DDE level of 0.44 ppm in brain tissues, and brain-to-muscle ratios did not exceed 0.97. Brain levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) averaged 4.0 ppm in the dead birds, 3.7 ppm in the live birds collected during the die-off, and 1.1 ppm in the June 1970 sample. All p,p′-DDE and PCB levels were considerably less than reported lethal concentrations in other species of birds; however, under conditions of environmental stress, the levels recorded for dead birds in 1969 may have been sufficient to contribute directly or indirectly to mortality through effects on metabolism and behavior.

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