DAO 29:159-168 (1997)  -  doi:10.3354/dao029159

Ecotoxicological and pathological studies of common guillemots Uria aalge beached on the Belgian coast during six successive wintering periods (1989-90 to 1994-95)

Debacker V, Holsbeek L, Tapia G, Gobert S, Joiris CR, Jauniaux T, Coignoul F, Bouquegneau JM

During 6 successive wintering periods, 727 common guillemots Uria aalge were recovered from Belgian beaches. One-third of the birds were already dead; the rest passed through rehabilitation centres where they eventually died. All birds were monitored for general condition (body mass, fat reserves), eventual status of oiling and pathological changes (cachexia, acute hemorrhagic gastro-enteropathy); 339 birds were sampled for trace metals (total and organic Hg, Cu, Zn, Fe, Cd) and PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) analysis. Oiling is still a major cause of death for wintering pelagic seabirds: half of the birds showed signs of external or internal oiling, probably a still greater number of oiled birds never reach the shores. Although a low body mass can be considered a normal winter condition for wintering guillemots, pathology results showed that three-quarters of the studied animals were in a state of cachexia with emaciated pectoral muscle and lowered muscle lipid content. Elevated levels of Cu, Zn, Hg and PCBs were linked to the state of cachexia and may well represent an additional stress factor leading to the debilitation and death of part of the wintering guillemot population.

Heavy metals · PCBs · Cachexia · Guillemots · Belgian coast

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