John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Latent cognitive effects from low‐level PCB exposure in juvenile European starlings, Sturnus vulgaris

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Ecotoxicology research on polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) mixtures has principally focused on short‐term effects on reproduction, growth, and other physiological endpoints. Here, we examined the latent cognitive effects from early life exposure to low‐level PCBs in an avian model, the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris). Thirty‐six birds, divided equally among four treatment groups (control = 0 µg, low = 0.35 µg, intermediate = 0.70 µg, and high =1.05 µg Aroclor 1254/g‐body weight) were dosed 1 through 18 days‐post‐hatch then tested 8 to 9 months later in captivity in an analogue to an open radial arm maze. Birds were subject to four sequential experiments: habituation, learning, cue selection, and memory. Half of the birds did not habituate to the test cage, though this was not linked to treatment group. While 11 of remaining 18 birds successfully learned, only one was from the high‐dosed group. Control and low dosed birds were among the only treatment groups to improve trial times throughout the learning experiment. High dosed birds were slower and more error prone than controls. Cue selection (spatial or colour cues) and memory retention were not affected by prior PCB exposure. Our results indicate a reduction in spatial learning ability persists among birds exposed to Aroclor 1254 during development. This may have implications for migration ability, resource acquisition, and other behaviours relevant for fitness. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved

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