[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: The concentrations of mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb) and selenium (Se) were determined in liver, kidney and muscle samples from 20 Baltic ringed seals (Phoca hispida botnica) (3-32 years), and from 17 ringed seals (Phoca hispida) (0-20 years) from Svalbard, in the Arctic. The concentrations of Hg and Se were considerably higher in the Baltic ringed seals, but the Cd concentrations lower than in the Svalbard ringed seals. There was no big geographical difference with respect to Pb concentrations. Se and Hg concentrations showed a significant positive correlation in both regions. By comparison with earlier studies on Baltic seals, the metal concentrations have remained at the same level since the 1980s. Of the metals we studied, only the level of Hg in Baltic ringed seals can be considered high (mean 53 mg/kg, range 6.5-124 mg/kg wet wt. for liver), but probably not high enough to cause metal intoxication. No pathological changes associated with metal intoxication were observed in the seals.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Chemotaxonomic and genetic properties were determined for 14 mycobacterial isolates identified as members of a newly described species Mycobacterium bohemicum. The isolates recovered from clinical, veterinary, and environmental sources were compared for lipid composition, biochemical test results, and sequencing of the 16S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) and the 16S-23S rDNA internal transcribed spacer (ITS) regions. The isolates had a lipid composition that was different from those of other known species. Though the isolates formed a distinct entity, some variations were detected in the features analyzed. Combined results of the phenotypic and genotypic analyses were used to group the isolates into three clusters. The major cluster (cluster A), very homogenous in all respects, comprised the M. bohemicum type strain, nine clinical and veterinary isolates, and two of the five environmental isolates. Three other environmental isolates displayed an insertion of 14 nucleotides in the ITS region; they also differed from cluster A in fatty alcohol composition and produced a positive result in the Tween 80 hydrolysis test. Among these three, two isolates were identical (cluster B), but one isolate (cluster C) had a unique high-performance liquid chromatography profile, and its gas liquid chromatography profile lacked 2-octadecanol, which was present in all other isolates analyzed. Thus, sequence variation in the 16S-23S ITS region was associated with interesting variations in lipid composition. Two of the isolates analyzed were regarded as potential inducers of human or veterinary infections. Each of the environmental isolates, all of which were unrelated to the cases presented, was cultured from the water of a different stream. Hence, natural waters are potential reservoirs of M. bohemicum.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Declining field vole (Microtus agrestis) and bank vole (Clethrionomys glareolus) populations were sampled (117 field voles and 34 bank voles) in south-central Finland during the winter of 1988-89. The last surviving field voles were caught in April and bank voles in February. A subsample (16) of the April field voles were taken live to the laboratory for immunosuppression. The histopathology of the main internal organs and the presence of aerobic bacteria and certain parasites were studied. In the lungs, an increase in lymphoid tissue, probably caused by infections, was the most common finding (52% of all individuals). The prevalences in the voles, in the whole material, of Chrysosporium sp. and Pneumocystis carinii in lungs were 13 and 10% in field voles, and 9 and 0% in bank voles, respectively. Cysts of Taenia mustelae (9 and 27%) were the most common pathological changes in the liver. Enteritis was also rather common (14 and 34%). In field voles the prevalences of Frenkelia sp. in the brain and Sarcocystis sp. in leg muscles were low (both 6%). Bordetella bronchiseptica was commonly (31%) isolated from field vole lungs and Listeria monocytogenes from the intestines (34%). Salmonella spp. could not be found. The dynamics and abundance of inflammations in the lungs and intestines, as well as B. bronchiseptica isolations from the lungs, indicate that obvious epidemics took place in declining vole populations. Of the Luhanka subsample of 16 field voles brought to the laboratory in April, one died of listeriosis, two of Bordetella, and five died for unknown reasons. Even if small mustelids are the driving force in microtine cycles, it is possible that diseases also contribute to the decline.
[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.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Diseases due to degeneration and inflammation of various internal organs were an important cause of death in Lesser Black-backed Gull chicks at Söderskär, central Gulf of Finland, from 1991 to 1993. Chicks either died in the nest within four days of hatching (17%) or, after having first grown normally, at the age of one to three weeks (mean 15 days, 13%). The former ones lost, on average, 15% of their body weight during the two days prior to death and the latter ones 23% in three days. Pathological findings were similar in both groups: degenerations in liver, cardial muscle and kidneys, inflammation in the intestine, and sepsis, the final cause of death. About half of the total number of chicks under surveillance, however, disappeared; their growth rate resembled that of the latter diseased group. Predation by Herring Gulls L. argentatus took 10% of the Lesser Black-back chicks, mostly from the best-growing group. A similar differentiation in chick fates was apparent in local Common Gulls L. canus, although Herring Gull predation partly masked the effect (35% depredated). In Herring Gulls, however, the latter diseased group was totally absent. The outbreak of diseases did not seem to be starvation-induced. Supplementary fed Lesser Black-back chicks died in the same proportion as chicks that were not given extra food. It is concluded that rapid weight loss is a symptom of a wide variety of physiological disorders and could not be used unequivocally as an indicator of food deficiences in the local environment.