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Potential ecotoxicological significance of elevated concentrations of strontium in eggshells of passerine birds

January 1, 2007

We investigated the occurrence and potential ecotoxicological significance of elevated concentrations of strontium (Sr) in eggshells of nine passerine birds from four regions in Arizona. Concentrations of Sr in eggshells ranged from 70 to 1360 µg g−1 dry weight (overall mean  =  684 ± 345 SD µg g−1 dw) for the four regions. 23% of the eggshells had Sr concentrations greater than 1000 µg g−1 dw. To our knowledge, these are among the highest levels of Sr that have been reported in bird eggshells in North America. Of the nine species, Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater) had the greatest concentrations of Sr. There was a significant positive correlation between Sr and calcium (Ca), and between barium (Ba) and Ca. Ca, Sr, and Ba interact with each other and can exert similar chemical and pharmacological effects. Mean (n ≥ 3) eggshell∶egg ratios for Sr varied with species and ranged from 6.1∶1 to 40.2∶1; ratios for individual eggs reached 92.7∶1. Mean Sr/Ca values ranged from 1.3 × 10−3 to 3.0 × 10−3 and mean eggshell thickness ranged from 83 ± 6 to 120 ± 9 µm for all species. Eggshell thickness was not significantly correlated with Sr for any species but tended to increase with Sr concentrations. We postulate that high concentrations of Sr in the shell could affect later-stage embryos by possible interference with Ca metabolism and bone growth, resulting in reduced hatching success and potential minor beak deformities.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2007
Title Potential ecotoxicological significance of elevated concentrations of strontium in eggshells of passerine birds
DOI 10.1650/0010-5422(2007)109[199:PESOEC]2.0.CO;2
Authors Miguel A. Mora, Robert J. Taylor, Bryan L. Brattin
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Condor
Series Number
Index ID 70171497
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center

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