Inhibition of brain cholinesterase (ChE) activity in birds is often used to diagnose exposure or death from organophosphorus or carbamate pesticides. Brain ChE activity in the young of altricial species increases with age; however, this relationship has only been demonstrated in the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris). Brain ChE activity of nestling great egrets (Casmerodius albus) collected from a colony in Texas (USA) increased significantly with age and did not differ among individuals from different nests. Brain ChE activity of nestling snowy egrets (Egretta thula) and black-crowned night-herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) collected in one colony each from Rhode Island, Texas and California (USA) also increased significantly with age and did not differ among individuals from different nests or colonies. This study further demonstrates that age must be considered when evaluating exposure of nestling altricial birds to ChE inhibitors.
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