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SUMMARY: Polychlorinated biphenyls have become ubiquitous in the world ecosystem in quantities similar to those of DDE. Experimental studies have shown that PCBs have a toxicity to mallards, pheasants, bobwhite quail, coturnix quail, red-winged blackbirds, starlings, cowbirds, and grackles that is of the same order as the toxicity of DDE to these species. Overt signs of poisoning also are similar to those caused by compounds of the DDT group. Toxic effects of DDE and Aroclor 1254 to coturnix chicks were additive, but not synergistic. PCBs containing higher percentages of chlorine are more toxic to birds than those containing lower percentages. PCBs of foreign manufacture contained contaminants to an extent that greatly increased their toxicity. Residues of PCBs in the brains of birds killed by these compounds measure in the hundreds of parts per million. PCBs may have contributed to mortality of some birds in the field. Toxicity to insects of PCBs of different degrees of chlorination is the reverse of the pattern in birds: the lower chlorinations are more toxic to insects. PCBs enhanced the toxicity of dieldrin and DDT to insects. Shrimp are very sensitive to PCBs and most will die as a result of 20-day exposure to a concentration of 5 ppb. PCBs also inhibit shell growth of oysters. Crabs are less sensitive; all accumulate residues to many times the concentrations in the water, and a test with crabs showed that they lost the residues very slowly. Growth of certain species of marine diatoms was experimentally inhibited by PCBs, but algae were not affected. The small marine crustacean, Gammarus, is sensitive to PCBs in concentrations of thousandths to tenths of a part per billion. Exposure to 5 ppb of Aroclor 1254 caused mortality of two species of fish in 14-45 days. Onset of death was delayed and was accompanied by fungus-like lesions. Rainbow trout were quickly killed by terphenyls at 10 ppb under normal oxygen conditions and at 2 ppb with reduced oxygen. Metabolic changes of PCBs have been suggested by environmental observations of different isomeric patterns in animals of different trophic levels. Quantitative differences also are pronounced, with magnifications of hundreds to thousands of times. Laboratory studies have shown no metabolic changes of PCBs by crabs and shrimps, minimal changes by fish, and pronounced changes by birds. PCBs induce microsomal enzyme activity in birds. Exposure to PCBs increased the susceptibility of mallard ducklings to duck hepatitis virus. Offspring of pheasants whose parents received high dosages of PCBs made poor choices in visual cliff tests. Egg production and hatching after pipping also were affected. Migratory restlessness was increased in English robins exposed to PCBs. Long-term studies of the reproductive effects of Aroclor 1254 on mallards and bobwhite quail and of Aroclor 1254 plus DDE on quail showed no significant differences from controls. In studies of chickens, however, egg production and hatchability were impaired by high doses of Aroclor 1254 and by low doses of Aroclor 1242. Statistical evaluations of the role that different chemicals may play in thinning eggshells of brown pelicans showed that DDE residues correlate better with shell thinning than do residues of dieldrin or PCBs, confirming observations with cormorants and white pelicans.