Contaminants, prolactin and parental care in an Arctic seabird: Contrasted associations of perfluoroalkyl substances and organochlorine compounds with egg-turning behavior

Publication Date


Document Type


Publication Title

General and Comparative Endocrinology






Incubating eggs represents a trade-off for parent birds between spending enough time fasting to take care of the clutch and to get enough nutrients for self-maintenance. It is believed that the pituitary hormone prolactin plays an important role in such allocation processes. Incubation does not solely imply the active warming of the eggs but also the active egg-turning to facilitate absorption of albumen by the embryo, reduce malposition and prevent the embryo from adhering to the inner shell membrane. However, how prolactin secretion is related to egg-turning behaviors is presently poorly addressed. In addition, several environmental contaminants can affect parental care behaviors through their endocrine disrupting properties but the effects of such contaminants on egg-turning behaviors remain so far unexplored. Using artificial eggs equipped with miniaturized data loggers, we investigated the relationships between egg-turning behaviors, prolactin secretion and contaminants burden in Arctic black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla). Specifically, we examined the relationships between blood concentrations of poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), organochlorines (OCs), mercury (Hg), plasma prolactin levels and both egg-turning frequency and angular change. We also incorporated baseline corticosterone levels since this glucocorticoid is known to affect parental care. Plasma prolactin levels were positively related to angular change in female kittiwakes while corticosterone was not related to egg-turning behaviors in either sex. Hg was not related to egg-turning behaviors in either sex. We found contrasting associations between OCs and PFASs, since polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were negatively associated with angular change in females, contrary to linear perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOSlin) and perfluoroalkyl carboxylic acids (PFCAs) which were positively related to egg-turning frequency and angular change in both sexes. Additionally, PFASs concentrations were positively related to prolactin levels in female kittiwake. The possible stimulation of prolactin secretion by PFASs could therefore make adult kittiwakes to allocate more time taking care of their eggs, and thus possibly modify the trade-off between spending enough time caring for the clutch and obtaining enough nutrients at sea.

Funding Number

ID 7670

Funding Sponsor

Agence Nationale de la Recherche


Black-legged kittiwake, Corticosterone, Egg-loggers, Incubation behaviors, Mercury, Organochlorine compounds, Perfluoroalkyl substances, Prolactin


Biological Sciences