Effects of dietary selenium exposure in captive American common eiders

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We conducted two studies of Se exposure in captive common eiders (Somateria mollissima). In Study 1, eiders were fed diets with added Se (as L-selenomethionine) in concentrations increasing from 10 ppm to 80 ppm. In Study 2, eiders received control, low exposure (20 ppm Se), and high exposure (60 ppm Se) diets. One duck in the high exposure group in Study 2 died after 36 days. Remaining high exposure ducks in Study 2 and ducks in Study 1 were euthanized after losing 25-30% of their body weight, which occurred after 41 days and 60-78 days, respectively. Body weights did not differ between control and low exposure ducks in Study 2. At the end of Study 1, the mean Se concentration in blood was 32 ppm wet weight (ww). In Study 2, mean blood Se reached 14 ppm ww in the low exposure group and 17 ppm ww in high exposure ducks. Mean Se concentrations in liver were 1252 ppm dry weight (dw) in Study 1, and 351 and 735 ppm dw, respectively, in the low and high exposure groups of Study 2. Oxidative stress was evidenced by Se-associated effects on glutathione metabolism, but not entirely in the same manner as with previous laboratory studies in mallards. In plasma, activities of total and Se-dependent glutathione peroxidase increased with time. As Se concentrations in liver increased, Se-dependent glutathione peroxidase, glutathione reductase, oxidized glutathione, and the ratio of hepatic oxidized to reduced glutathione increased. Total and protein bound sulfhydryl concentrations, reduced glutathione, glutathione-S-transferase, and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase in liver were negatively correlated with Se concentrations in the liver. In Study 2, spleen weights were significantly lower in ducks receiving 60 ppm Se than in those receiving 20 ppm. Gross lesions associated with high Se exposure included emaciation, absence of thymus, loss of nails from digits, and alopecia. Microscopic lesions included severe depletion of lymphoid organs, hepatopathy, and necrosis of feather pulp and feather epithelium. Common eiders fed high levels of Se lost weight and developed lesions similar to findings in experimental mallards, but they accumulated greater Se concentrations in tissues, particularly liver. Field studies have shown that apparently healthy seaducks generally have higher levels of Se in liver than healthy fresh water birds, but lower than the concentrations we found in our study. We conclude common eiders and probably other seaducks have a higher threshold, or adverse effect level, of Se in tissues than fresh water species.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Book chapter
Publication Subtype:
Book Chapter
Effects of dietary selenium exposure in captive American common eiders
Year Published:
Contributing office(s):
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
Other Government Series
Larger Work Title:
Second North American Sea Duck Conference, November 7-11, 2005, Annapolis, Maryland. Program and Abstracts
First page:
71 (abs)