Blood characteristics as predictors of reproductive success in quail species exposed to DDT

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Virginia Tech


Present sampling techniques are not capable of assessing both contamination with an organochlorine chemical and reproductive success without the need for removing individuals from that population. Experiments were performed to evaluate vitellogenin, vitamin A, and vitamin E as biomarkers of contamination with DDT, an organochlorine pesticide, and reproductive success in Japanese quail (Coturnix coturnix japonica) or northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus).

The utility of vitellogenin as a biomarker in northern bobwhites was investigated. Female northern bobwhites were dosed with 0, 1, 10, or 100 μg DDT/g body weight via corn oil intubation. The females were induced to lay eggs by providing the proper daylength, and number of eggs laid was monitored. No differences were found for number of eggs laid, egg morphology, or plasma concentration of vitellogenin among dose groups.

Dietary supplementation and corn oil intubation were evaluated as alternative dosing techniques because handling involved with intubation may have caused decreased egg production in all treatment groups in the first experiment. Nonlaying female bobwhites were dosed with 0 μg DDT, 25 μg DDT/g food, or 25 μg/g body weight (intubation). Bobwhites receiving DDT via intubation accumulated more DDT in brains and livers than did bobwhites receiving DDT via their diet. The two techniques were found not to be equivalent.

Vitamins A and E were investigated as biomarkers of DDT contamination and reproductive success in Japanese quail. Female Japanese quail were given 0, 1, 10, or 25 μg dietary DDT. Significant differences were found among dose groups for reproductive success (number of eggs showing embryonic development), and for plasma concentrations of vitamin A. Concentrations of vitamin E were not measurable. Correlation and regression analyses failed to show a relationship between reproduction and vitamin A concentrations.

Vitamins A and E also were investigated as biomarkers in northern bobwhites. Female bobwhites were given 0, 1, 10, or 25 ppm dietary DDT. No significant differences were found among dose groups for reproductive success or for concentrations of either vitamin A or vitamin E. Correlation and regression analyses again failed to show any relationship between reproduction and plasma concentrations of vitamins A or E.

During each experiment, concentrations of DDT and its metabolites were measured. DDE/DDT ratios in livers, a means of estimating liver enzyme induction, were calculated. The DDE/DDT ratios in livers of Japanese quail and northern bobwhites were found to be markedly different. More work needs to be done to better evaluate the relationship between differences in enzyme induction and reproductive success among different species.