Persistent Organic Pollutants in Livers and Hg in Feathers of Neotropic Cormorants (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) from the Trinity River Watershed (Texas, USA)

  • Christopher Sandoval
  • Miguel A. MoraEmail author
  • Jose Sericano
  • Raquel R. Rech


The Trinity River (Texas, USA) has been historically known as a polluted river because of its proximity to the Dallas-Fort Worth area and because of known discharges of sewage and agricultural irrigation waters to the river. Surprisingly, there are no studies regarding the presence of legacy contaminants in the river and their impacts to wildlife. The objectives of this study were to determine accumulation and potential impacts of persistent organic pollutants, such as organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), on Neotropic cormorants (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) nesting along the Trinity River. Adult and first-year cormorants were collected from two sites on the Trinity River Watershed during 2014 and 2015. Tissue sections from liver, spleen, kidneys, and gonads were used for histopathology analysis, and a portion of the liver was analyzed for OCPs, PCBs, and PBDEs. Breast feathers were analyzed for Hg. Surprisingly, all the contaminants were present at low concentrations, p,p′-DDE (2–724 ng/g ww), PCBs (28–851 ng/g ww), PBDEs (1–85 ng/g ww), Hg (1.9–3.4 µg/g dw), and below those that could be associated with adverse effects. Also, histological analysis of liver and kidney samples did not reveal morphologic changes consistent with acute or chronic toxicosis. The majority of the histologic changes were inflammatory and were related to parasitic infestation. Our results suggest that aquatic birds using the Trinity River watershed are not at risk for adverse effects due to the contaminants studied. These results should be useful to wildlife managers regarding concerns over contaminant impacts on wildlife of the Trinity River.



This manuscript benefitted from comments by three anonymous reviewers. This research was supported by a fellowship to C. Sandoval from the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program and a TAMU-CONACYT Grant to M. Mora for contaminant studies with aquatic birds.


Funding was provided by Texas A&M and NSFC: Collaborative Research Grant Program (Grant No. 230041).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Wildlife and Fisheries SciencesTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  2. 2.Geochemical and Environmental Research GroupTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  3. 3.Department of Veterinary PathobiologyTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

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