Avocets (Recurvirostra americana) hatched from eggs collected from the south Central Valley of California (USA) were studied to determine the impact of elevated concentrations of selenium, arsenic, and boron on the immune system and growth to maturity. Corcoran ponds were the reference site with low selenium (1.2 ppb) and arsenic (29 ppb) (boron not measured). Westfarmers Pond had elevated concentrations of selenium (319 ppb), arsenic (127 ppb), and boron (109 ppm). Pryse ponds also had elevated selenium, arsenic, and boron concentrations (13.9 ppb, 1,100 ppb, and 29.4 ppm, respectively). Size at hatch was significantly reduced (P < 0.05) in birds from Westfarmers and Pryse ponds. The growth rate was faster, but mean adult size was reduced in birds from Pryse ponds. Avocet chicks from Pryse and Westfarmers ponds exposed solely through in ovo transfer of these elements had significantly increased heterophil: lymphocyte ratios. The phagocytic activity of macrophages also was significantly reduced in these birds, and Pryse Pond birds had an increased proliferative ability of lymphocytes in the presence of concanavalin A, a T-cell mitogen. Avocet chicks (≤5 wk old) were captured from the various ponds and the same morphometric and immune function measurements made. The birds that were most severely impacted by exposure to these compounds were those that were collected from Pryse ponds.
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