, Volume 12, Issue 1-4, pp 297-305

Review: Porphyrins as Biomarkers for Hazard Assessment of Bird Populations: Destructive and Non-destructive Use


In this review the biochemical, metabolic and toxicological significance of porphyrins in birds is examined, and their use as biomarkers of exposure to xenobiotics and heavy metals is explored. Laboratory studies pinpointing the main classes of compounds that alter porphyrin profiles are described, as well as those which defined the resulting porphyrin profiles and target organs. Field studies in which the biomarker was validated on natural populations of several species of birds are then reviewed. We finally illustrate their potential as a non-destructive biomarker suitable for situations in which destructive sampling of natural populations must be avoided, suggesting the implementation of this approach.