[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The population decline of the nominate lesser black-backed gull Larus fuscus fuscus in the Gulf of Finland (northern Baltic) is caused by an exceedingly high chick mortality due to diseases. The chick diseases include degeneration in various internal organs (primarily liver), inflammations (mainly intestinal), and sepsis, the final cause of death. The hypothesis of starvation causing intestinal inflammations (leading to sepsis) was tested by attempting to reproduce lesions in apparently healthy herring gull L. argentatus chicks in captivity. The herring gull chicks were provided a similar low food-intake frequency as observed for the diseased chicks in the wild. However, empty alimentary tract per se did not induce the intestinal inflammations and therefore, inflammations seem to be innate or caused by other environmental factors in the diseased lesser black-backed chicks. They had very high concentrations of PCB in their liver; but the concentrations were not significantly higher than those of the healthy herring gull chicks, indicating a common exposure area for both species (i.e. the Baltic Sea). When compared to NOEL and LOEL values for TEQs in bird eggs our TEQ levels clearly exceed most or all of the values associated with effects. Compared with published data on fish-eating waterbirds, the DDE concentrations in the diseased lesser black-backed chicks were well above the levels previously correlated with decreased reproduction, while the residues in apparently healthy herring gulls were below those levels. The DDE/PCB ratio in lesser black-backs was significantly elevated, indicating an increased exposure to DDTs as compared with most other Baltic and circumpolar seabirds. The possible exposure areas of DDT in relation to differential migration habits of the two gull species are discussed.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Diseases due to the degeneration of the liver and various other internal organs were the major cause of the exceedingly high chick mortality in lesser black-backed gulls (Larus fuscus fuscus) in the central Gulf of Finland, Baltic Sea, during 1991-1993. The same symptoms were found in chicks of common gulls (Larus canus) and herring gulls (Larus argentatus) from the same focal area, although at a much lower frequency. We found disproportionately high concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in liver relative to leg muscle in lesser black-backed chicks compared with common gull and herring gull chicks. The causality between PCB residues and chick diseases remains unknown. No signs of chick edema disease or abnormal frequency of embryonic deaths, commonly associated with organochlorines in biota, were found. It is concluded that studies made in a very small geographical area may not give a good correlation between dose and effect due to an even greater variation in tolerance. Another explanation is that the diseases may not have been PCB-induced.