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Keywords:

  • Polybrominated diphenylethers;
  • Hexabromocyclododecane;
  • Courtship behaviors;
  • Reproductive success;
  • Birds

Abstract

Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) are additive flame-retardants that are environmentally persistent and bioaccumulative compounds of particular concern to species at high trophic levels, including predatory birds. The developmental effects of in ovo exposure to male birds at environmentally relevant levels of the PBDE technical mixture, DE-71, on reproductive success and behaviors using captive American kestrels (Falco sparverius) were determined. Males were exposed in ovo by direct maternal transfer to DE-71 and unintentionally to low concentrations of hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) at three mean ± standard error DE-71 concentrations of 288.60 ± 33.35 ng/g wet weight (low-exposure), 1130.59 ± 95.34 ng/g wet weight (high-exposure), or background levels of 3.01 ± 0.46 ng/g wet weight (control). One year following exposure, males were paired with unexposed females. Reproductive success was lower in the high exposure pairs: 43% failed to lay eggs while all other pairs laid complete clutches; they also laid smaller clutches and produced smaller eggs with reduced fertility, parameters that were negatively correlated with paternal in ovo concentrations of all PBDEs, as well as individual congeners and HBCD. Throughout courtship, there were fewer copulations by all in ovo exposed males, fewer mate-calls made by high-exposure males, and decreasing trends in pair-bonding and nest-box behaviors across treatments that continued during brood rearing. The reductions in clutch size and fertility were associated with the reduced frequencies of male courtship behaviors, and were associated with increasing concentrations of the PBDE congeners BDE-47, -99, -100, -53, -138, and HBCD. The results of the present study confirm effects noted in the F0 generation and demonstrate that exposure to DE-71 affects multiple generations of this predatory avian species at environmentally relevant levels of exposure. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010; 29:1740–1747. © 2010 SETAC