HEALTH OF TREE SWALLOWS (TACHYCINETA BICOLOR) NESTING IN PESTICIDE-SPRAYED APPLE ORCHARDS IN ONTARIO, CANADA. II. SEX AND THYROID HORMONE CONCENTRATIONS AND TESTES DEVELOPMENT
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To investigate the effects of pesticides on wild birds, sex (17beta-estradiol; testosterone) and thyroid (triiodothyronine (T3) hormone concentrations, body mass, and testes mass were measured and the development of testes was evaluated in wild tree swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) nesting in four sprayed apple orchards and three nonsprayed sites in southern Ontario, Canada, in 1995-1996. In orchards, birds were exposed to asmany as 11 individual spray events and five sprays of mixtures of chemicals. Residues of organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, lead, and arsenic concentrations were low and not variable among sites except p,p'-DDE concentrations, which ranged from 0.36 to 2.23 microg/g wet weight in eggs. These persistent compounds were not correlated with any endocrine response measured in tree swallows. In 16-d-old male tree swallow chicks, body mass and concentrations of 17beta-estradiol (estradiol), testosterone, and T3 in plasma showed no significant differences between sprayed and nonsprayed groups and among sites within those groups. However, T3 concentrations were slightly elevated in the sprayed group compared to the nonsprayed group, and there was a significant and positive correlation between T3 and the number of mixtures of sprays applied during egg incubation through chick rearing. In 16-d-old female chicks, there were no significant differences among spray treatments or sites and no correlations with spray exposure for testosterone, estradiol, or T3 in plasma. Body mass was correlated positively with T3 and negatively with estradiol but showed no differences among spray exposure groups or sites. Histology of testes of 16-d-old male chicks indicated there were no significant differences among sprayed and nonsprayed birds in testes mass, area, or diameter, or the presence of Leydig cells in the interstitium, the distribution of the Sertoli cells, or the occurrence of heterophils in the testicular interstitium. For the percentage of spermatogonia present on the basement membrane, there were significant differences among sites, but these differences were not specifically associated with spray exposure. However, there was a marginally significant trend between increasing occurrence of a disrupted Sertoli cell population on the seminiferous tubular basement membranes as the number of mixtures of pesticides sprayed during chick rearing increased. In adult male and female parent tree swallows, there were no differences in hormone concentrations between birds from sprayed and nonsprayed sites. Nor were there any significant correlations between the concentration of any hormone and collection date, body mass, or any type of spray exposure for adults. The correlations between increasing pesticide exposure and abnormal thyroid hormone and testes development in male chicks indicate that further reductions of pesticide use in orchards may benefit the health of birds that nest there. However, it is unclear which of these pesticides or spray mixtures are responsible for these effects, and this needs to be examined in future studies.
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