Egg laying sequence influences egg mercury concentrations and egg size in three bird species: Implications for contaminant monitoring programs

Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
By: , and 

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Abstract

Bird eggs are commonly used in contaminant monitoring programs and toxicological risk assessments, but intra-clutch variation and sampling methodology could influence interpretability. We examined the influence of egg laying sequence on egg mercury concentrations and burdens in American avocets, black-necked stilts, and Forster's terns. The average decline in mercury concentrations between the first and last egg laid was 33% for stilts, 22% for terns, and 11% for avocets, and most of this decline occurred between the first and second eggs laid (24% for stilts, 18% for terns, and 9% for avocets). Trends in egg size with egg laying order were inconsistent among species and overall differences in egg volume, mass, length, and width were <3%. We summarized the literature and, among 17 species studied, mercury concentrations generally declined by 16% between the first and second eggs laid. Despite the strong effect of egg laying sequence, most of the variance in egg mercury concentrations still occurred among clutches (75%-91%) rather than within clutches (9%-25%). Using simulations, we determined that to accurately estimate a population's mean egg mercury concentration using only a single random egg from a subset of nests, it would require sampling >60 nests to represent a large population (10% accuracy) or ≥14 nests to represent a small colony that contained <100 nests (20% accuracy).

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Egg laying sequence influences egg mercury concentrations and egg size in three bird species: Implications for contaminant monitoring programs
Series title Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
DOI 10.1002/etc.3291
Volume 35
Issue 6
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, Contaminant Biology Program
Description 12 p.
First page 1458
Last page 1469
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N