Age-dependent changes in plasma and brain cholinesterase (ChE) activity were characterized in two altricial passerine species: eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) and European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). Plasma acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity declined rapidly immediately after hatching, while plasma butyrylcholinesterase (BChE) activity increased throughout the nestling period. These patterns continued after birds fledged, since the BChE : AChE ratio was higher in adult birds than fledglings. This is the first confirmation of age-dependent changes in plasma ChE activity in altricial species. Total plasma ChE activity increased with age in both species, which is the reverse of results previously reported for several precocial species. Brain ChE activity increased with age in both species, and did not reach asymptotic levels before young fledged. This corresponded with patterns previously documented in European starlings and three other altricial species. We propose that age and degree of precocity in young birds must be considered when examining sensitivity or evaluating field exposure of birds to ChE-inhibiting compounds.
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Vol. 29 • No. 1