Haematology, blood biochemistry, parasites and pathology of common eider (Somateria mollisima) males during a mortality event in the Baltic

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  • Svend Erik Garbus, Dyrlægehuset Randers (Randers Veterinary Hospital)
  • ,
  • Jens Peter Christensen, University of Copenhagen
  • ,
  • Kurt Buchmann, University of Copenhagen
  • ,
  • Thomas Binger Jessen, Dyrlægehuset Randers (Randers Veterinary Hospital)
  • ,
  • Peter Lyngs, Christiansø Scientific Field Station
  • ,
  • Mona Lykke Jacobsen
  • ,
  • Grete Garbus, Dyrlægehuset Randers (Randers Veterinary Hospital)
  • ,
  • Emil Lund, University of Copenhagen
  • ,
  • Pelle Gorm Garbus
  • ,
  • Jesper Johannes Madsen, University of Copenhagen
  • ,
  • Kasper Thorup, University of Copenhagen
  • ,
  • Christian Sonne

A mortality event at the Christiansø colony in the Baltic proper killed 115 common eiders (Somateria mollissima) in mid-May 2016. To complement previous studies of incubating females, 39 males were necropsied and from a subsample of these a biochemical and haematological profile was obtained. The birds were emaciated and cachexic having a 50% reduction in body mass. Twenty-nine eiders were diagnosed with hydropericardium, 15 had hunger edema, three birds had enteritis and a single air sac infection. All birds were infested with intestinal Polymorphus minutus and 32 of these with the intestinal Trematoda spp. Microscopic parasitic investigations identified endoparasitic trematodes of the families Bucephhalidae, Echinostomidae, Notocotyluridae and Levinsiniella. White blood cell count showed slight heterophilia and lymphopenia while the albumin:globulin ratio (0.28) indicated stress, immune supression and inflammatory reactions supported by a high heterophil:lymphocyte index (13). Declined plasma concentration of glucose, fructosamine, amylase, albumin and protein likewise indicated long-term starvation prior to mortality indicating phase III starvation (catabolism of protein). The dramatic increase in aspartate transaminase, glutamate-dehydrogenase, lactate-dehydrogenase and bile acids indicate liver disorders while dehydration, renal, heart and bone disorders was reflected in the increased uric acid, urea, phosphor and potassium values. These findings show that male eiders undergo long-term starvation and multi organ failure similar to that of incubating females previously reported from the same colony. It increases our knowledge of the physiology of starving eiders and add to our understanding of the recurrent mortality events in the colony that seems to be linked to changes in food availability being an important factor together with a warmer climate in a declining Baltic eider population. We recommend future studies to focus on food composition, migration patterns and environmental changes including parasitic infections and global warming.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Pages (from-to)559-567
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019

    Research areas

  • Biochemistristry, Body weight, Endoparasites, Haematology, Multi-organ failure, Starvation, PROTEIN, WADDEN SEA, MOLLISSIMA, CHEMISTRY, BODY-MASS, STARVATION, URIC-ACID, UREA

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