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Lead pellet retention time and associated toxicity in northern bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus)



Birds are exposed to Pb by oral ingestion of spent Pb shot as grit. A paucity of data exists for retention and clearance of these particles in the bird gastrointestinal tract. In the current study, northern bobwhite quail (Colinus virginianus) were orally gavaged with 1, 5, or 10 Pb shot pellets, of 2-mm diameter, and radiographically followed over time. Blood Pb levels and other measures of toxicity were collected, to correlate with pellet retention. Quail dosed with either 5 or 10 pellets exhibited morbidity between weeks 1 and 2 and were removed from further study. Most of the Pb pellets were absorbed or excreted within 14 d of gavage, independent of dose. Pellet size in the ventriculus decreased over time in radiographs, suggesting dissolution caused by the acidic pH. Birds dosed with one pellet showed mean blood Pb levels that exceeded 1,300 µg/dl at week 1, further supporting dissolution in the gastrointestinal tract. Limited signs of toxicity were seen in the one-pellet birds; however, plasma δ-aminolevulinic acid dehydratase (d-ALAD) activity was persistently depressed, suggesting possible impaired hematological function. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:2869–2874. © 2010 SETAC