Throughout much of the Great Lakes basin, reproduction of several fish species is impaired by deficiency of thiamine in their eggs, an effect attributed to consumption of thiaminase-containing forage species, primarily alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus). Because the double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) nesting on islands in Lake Ontario is known to consume considerable amounts of alewife, we examined cormorant food habits and measured thiamine content in eggs collected in 1999 from six separate nests of cormorants from colonies near Lake Ontario and contrasted them with food habits and eggs of cormorants from Oneida Lake where the alewife is rare. Thiamine concentrations in eggs varied between 4.31 and 11.24 nmoles/g with no significant (P>0.18) difference between mean concentrations for Lake Ontario and Oneida Lake (8.08 vs 8.36 nmoles/g) even though alewife comprised approximately 65 vs 0 % of their diets, respectively. Consumption of other thiaminase-containing species was minor in both lakes. Therefore, consumption of alewife and other thiaminase containing fishes by cormorants on Lake Ontario did not appear to significantly impair the levels of thiamine in their eggs. However, we found that the concentration of thiamine in eggs (T; nmoles/g) was inversely related (P<0.02) to lead (Pb) concentration (µg/g) according to the equation: T = -3.142 Pb + 16.25. This relationship may reflect the known ability of thiamine to chelate lead and increase its excretion.
Additional publication details
Influence of diet of double-crested cormorants on thiamine, lead, and mineral contents of their eggs