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Keywords:

  • Housatonic River;
  • Mink;
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls;
  • Reproduction;
  • Survival

Abstract

We evaluated the effects of feeding farm-raised mink (Mustela vison) diets containing polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-contaminated fish from the Housatonic River (HR; Berkshire County, MA, USA) on adult reproductive performance and kit growth and survival. Diets contained 0.22–3.54% HR fish, providing 0.34–3.7 μg total PCBs (TPCB)/g feed wet wt (3.5–68.5 pg toxic equivalence [TEQ]/g). Female mink were fed diets before breeding through weaning of kits. Twelve kits from each treatment were maintained on their respective diets for an additional 180 d. Dietary PCBs had no effect on the number of offspring produced, gestation period, or other measures of adult reproductive performance. Mink kits exposed to 3.7 μg TPCB/g feed (68.5 pg TEQ/g) in utero and during lactation had reduced survivability between three and six weeks of age. The lethal concentrations to 10 and 20% of the population (LC10 and LC20, respectively) were estimated to be 0.231 and 0.984 μg TPCB/g feed, respectively. Because inclusion of PCB-contaminated fish that composed approximately 1% of the diet would reduce mink kit survival by 20% or more, it is likely that consumption of up to 30-fold that quantity of HR fish, as could be expected for wild mink, would have an adverse effect on wild mink populations.