Diverse field and experimental studies suggest that abnormal sexual and reproductive development in wildlife could be caused by endocrine-like action of pollutants on embryos, and that functional deficits would be evident only later in life, during breeding. We tested these hypotheses in American kestrels (Falco sparverius). Aroclor 1242 is a commercial mixture of PCB congeners shown to be estrogenic in mice and the mixture approximates the environmental exposure of Common terns (Sterna hirundo) where abnormal development of gonads in male tern chicks was seen. Pairs of kestrels were exposed to high and low levels of Aroclor in food resulting in mean egg concentrations of 80.4 and 9.4 ppm respectively. The gonadal orphology of hatchlings was consistent with their genetic sex, and male testes showed only little histological intersexuality; fledglings had nomal gonadal morphology and histology. Female hatchlings tended to show increased androgen and decreased estrogen in their serum with increased dose of Aroclor. Similarly exposed siblings were raised to breeding age and displayed some differences in incubation behavior, but no difference in reproductive output from controls. Overall, kestrels exposed to Aroclor 1242 as embryos showed some moderate disruption of normal development, but siblings showed little functional deficit at breeding age.
Additional publication details
Endocrine, developmental and reproductive impacts of polychlorinated biphenyl (Arochlor 1242) in American kestrels