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Consequences of emerging contaminants exposure during the mating period in an Arctic seabird

The goal of this project is to investigate the consequences of the exposure to emerging contaminants, the poly- and perfluorinated alkyl substances during the mating stage in the black-legged kittiwake. The mating period is a critical stage during which hormonal mechanisms and pair formation processes are established for the onset of breeding.

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Project date

Starts
2016-05-23

Ends
2016-07-04

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Project type

  • field work
  • long-term monitoring
  • arctic field grant (afg)

Discipline

  • other

Project Keywords

  • biosphere / zoology

Fieldwork information

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Summary

Owing to their high volatility and persistence in time, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) reach remote areas such as the Arctic. Once deposited in aquatic ecosystems, POPs are assimilated by living organisms via food intake, bioaccumulate in individuals and biomagnifiy along food webs. In the Arctic, negative effects of contaminants (heavy metals and legacy POPS such as organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) and PCBs) on wildlife have been well documented (AMAP 2010). However, effects of some emerging contaminants such as poly- and perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFASs) have received much less attention (DeWitt 2015). PFASs have been used as surface-active agents in a multitude of manufactured and consumer products (personal care products, non-stick cookware, fire-fighting foam, water proof clothing and stain-resistant carpets). These contaminants are now the most prevalent pollutants in Arctic seabirds such as Svalbard Black-Legged Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla). The goal of this project is to investigate the consequences of PFASs exposure during the mating stage in the black-legged kittiwake. The mating period is a critical stage during which hormonal mechanisms and pair formation processes are established for the onset of breeding. Specifically, we will investigate the effects of PFASs (Figure 1) on: 1) Sexual signaling ornamentation. Integument carotenoid-based colouration is critical for mate selection and a recent study has shown that OCPs and PCBs could disrupt colouration of labile integuments in female kittiwakes (Blévin et al 2014). During, the prelaying period, we will investigate relationships between PFASs burden and carotenoid-based colouration (gape, tongue, eye ring and bill). 2) Luteinizing hormone secretion (LH), a key driver of the onset of reproduction in birds (Tartu et al 2013). In response to increased day length, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) is secreted and triggers luteinizing hormone (LH) release from the pituitary gland. LH will then promote the onset of reproduction (sexual steroids and spermatogenesis). To test the ability of an individual to secrete LH in relation to PFASs burden, we will use GnRH challenge (Tartu et al 2013). 3) Spermatic quality. In humans, it has been reported that PFASs exposure was negatively associated with the percentage of morphologically normal spermatozoa (Joensen et al. 2009). To our knowledge, this has never been investigated in wildlife. Spermatozoa will be collected in males during the mating season and spermatic quality will be assessed by recording spermatozoa counts, mobility and morphology. 4) Fitness consequences by investigating relationships between PFASs burden and reproductive outputs. To do so, we will monitor the percentage of birds that breed or skip breeding, laying date, clutch size and reproductive success.

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