Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

Living long: oxidative stress in relation to reproduction, contaminants, gender and age in Wandering Albatrosses

David Costantini (Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Wilrijk, Belgium) and colleagues have published in the journal Oecologia on whether oxidative damage has a physiological cost of reproduction in long-lived Wandering Albatrosses Diomedea exulans.

The paper’s abstract follows:

Reproduction is a demanding activity for animals, since they must produce, and in some cases protect and provision, their young.  It is often overlooked that demands of reproduction may also be exacerbated by exposure to contaminants.  In this study, we make use of an exceptional long-term dataset to perform a cross-sectional study on the long-lived wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans) in order to test the effects of reproduction, persistent organic pollutants [POPs: pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)], mercury, individual age (3–47 years), and sex on the levels of plasma oxidative damage and inflammation.  The results of our study support the hypothesis that oxidative damage may be a physiological cost of reproduction and that individuals carrying higher levels of organic or non-organic contaminants have higher oxidative damage.  Levels of the inflammatory protein haptoglobin were similar between breeding and non-breeding birds, with the exception of breeding males which had the lowest levels of haptoglobin.  Our data also show an effect of age and of organic contaminants on the plasma oxidative damage level, but not on plasma haptoglobin.  In addition, plasma oxidative damage level increased with red blood cell mercury concentration in females but not in males.  Hence, our study highlights that the harmful effects of contaminants may come through interaction with factors like life stage or gender, suggesting potential for high variation in susceptibility to contamination among individuals.


An old Wandering Albatross guards its chick


Costantini, D., Meillère, A., Carravieri, A., Lecomte, V., Sorci, G., Faivre, B., Weimerskirch, H., Bustamante, P., Labadie, P., Budzinski, H. & Chastel, O. 2014.  Oxidative stress in relation to reproduction, contaminants, gender and age in a long‑lived seabird.  Oecologia.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 05 July 2014