PCB Congener Profiles in Nestling Tree Swallows and Their Insect Prey
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- Papp, Z., Bortolotti, G.R., Sebastian, M. et al. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol (2007) 52: 257. doi:10.1007/s00244-006-0037-z
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Tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) are widely used as indicators of local polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) contamination in North America. Although determining total PCB residues in tissues is useful in environmental monitoring, analysis of PCB congener profiles may reveal sources of contamination and thus prove to be a more refined tool to track contaminants through the food web. To show how differences in PCB congener patterns in birds can be linked to the PCB patterns in their prey, we evaluated PCB congeners in tissues of tree swallow nestlings and their insect prey using principal component analysis and Euclidean similarities. The PC1 scores for PCB residues in nestlings fell between those of the Hexagenia (Ephemeroptera, mayflies) and Chironomidae (Diptera, midges), the two major prey groups of the nestlings. The congener pattern was not related to the location of nest boxes within the study area. However, Hexagenia insects and the nestlings that consumed them were richer in less chlorinated congeners and had higher PC1 scores than Chironomidae insect. In concordance, congener pattern of nestlings that hatched earlier and consumed more mayflies was more similar than that of other nestling to the pattern of nestings texagenia as calculated by Euclidean similarities. We point to the importance of understanding the seasonal availability of specific types of insect prey and their PCB congener pattern before these data are applied in models of trophic transfer of individual PCB congeners within a food web.