Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in blood related to lower body mass in common loons

Sci Total Environ. 2016 Sep 15:565:360-368. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.04.150. Epub 2016 May 10.


We captured 93 wintering adult and subadult Common Loons (Gavia immer) in coastal Louisiana from 2011 to 2015 following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. We tested blood samples for exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and measured physiological variables including hematocrit, hemoglobin and total blood protein. PAH concentrations in loon blood differed from year to year and by age class. High PAH concentrations were significantly related to lower body masses in both adult and subadult birds and higher serum protein levels in adults only. PAH concentrations had marginal relations with both hematocrit and hemoglobin levels. The types of PAHs detected also underwent a major shift over time. The PAHs detected in 2011, 2012, and 2015 were primarily low molecular weight (three carbon rings); however, in 2013, most detected PAHs were high molecular weight (four carbon rings). It is unclear what events led to the increase in PAH concentrations and the shift in type of PAHs over time.

Keywords: Body mass; Common loon; Deepwater Horizon oil spill; Gavia immer; Hematocrit; Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Birds*
  • Body Weights and Measures
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Gulf of Mexico
  • Louisiana
  • Petroleum Pollution*
  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons / analysis*
  • Seasons
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical