Severe reproductive impacts were found in aquatic birds nesting on irrigation drainwater ponds in the San Joaquin Valley of California. Of 347 nests studied to late incubation or to hatching, 40.6% had at least one dead embryo and 19.6% had at least one embryo or chick with an obvious external anomaly. The deformities were often multiple and included missing or abnormal eyes, beaks, wings, legs and feet. Brain, heart, liver and skeletal anomalies were also present. Mean selenium concentrations in plants, invertebrates, and fish from the ponds were 22-175 ppm (dry weight), about 12 to 130 times those found at a nearby control area. Bird eggs (2.2-110 ppm) and livers (19-130 ppm) also contained elevated levels of selenium. Aquatic birds may experience similar problems in other areas where selenium occurs at elevated levels. © 1986.
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