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Keywords:

  • Polychlorinated biphenyls;
  • Zebra finches;
  • Endocrine disruption;
  • Fertility;
  • Altricial birds

Abstract

The effects of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) as compounds that may disrupt endocrine activity and, consequently, alter reproductive performance were investigated in altricial zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). The breeding performance and breeding cycle of zebra finches differed significantly between nonexposed birds and those experimentally pulse-exposed to Aroclor 1248, a PCB compound (40 μg/bird). Aroclor-exposed birds showed significantly increased numbers of clutches laid, nests constructed per pair, incubation time per pair, and percentage of hatchling mortality compared to controls. Not all reproductive parameters were affected. Those traditionally regarded as indicators of reproductive capacity (number of eggs laid per clutch, number of eggs laid per pair, hatchlings per clutch, and fledglings per clutch) did not differ statistically between exposed and control birds. Findings support the hypothesis that very low PCB doses may be associated with endocrine disruption. It is suggested that evaluation of reproductive parameters related to parental care is more adequate to assess endocrine disruption than is evaluation of reproductive success parameters. Given its short breeding cycle, altricial breeding behavior, and other advantages not possessed by precocial birds, we propose using the zebra finch for evaluations of chemicals with endocrine-disruptive activity.