Contaminant exposure and biomarker response in embryos of black-crowned night-herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) nesting near Lake Calumet, Illinois

Jeffrey M. Levengood, Luann Wiedenmann, Thomas W. Custer, David J. Schaeffer, Cole W. Matson, Mark J. Melancon, David J. Hoffman, John W. Scott, Jonathan L. Talbott, Gary O. Bordson, John W. Bickham, Barnett A. Rattner, Nancy H. Golden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examined a suite of environmental contaminants and exposure endpoints in black-crowned night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax, BCNH) embryos collected in 2002 from colonies in Illinois, Minnesota, and Virginia. Embryos from the Lake Calumet, IL, colony had greater exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), 4,4′-dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), dieldrin, transnonachlor, oxychlordane, cobalt, copper, and selenium than did those from northwest MN and coastal VA. Embryos from IL and VA contained greater concentrations of mercury and zinc than those from MN, whereas the latter had greater accumulation of lead. Greater exposure of IL embryos to PCBs was reflected in greater ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase and benzyloxyresorufin-O-dealkylase induction. However, measures of oxidative stress and genotoxicity were similar to those in embryos from the other colonies examined, and no overt toxic effects of contaminant exposure such as embryo mortality or malformations were observed. Although efforts to clean up the south Chicago environment are ongoing, Lake Calumet BCNH, and undoubtedly other piscivorous wildlife foraging in the region, continue to be exposed to a variety of environmental contaminants. Life-history characteristics of this species make it ideal as an environmental sentinel for the success of the cleanup of the south Chicago environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)791-805
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2007


  • Biomarkers
  • Contaminants
  • Embryos
  • Lake Calumet
  • Night-heron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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