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2,2',4,4',5-Pentabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-99) is a brominated flame retardant congener that has pervaded global food chains, being reported in avian egg and tissue samples throughout the world. Its effects on birds are not well known, but there is evidence in exposed mammals that it directly mediates and causes neurotoxicity, alters thyroid hormone homeostasis, and lowers sex steroid hormone concentrations. In birds, those processes could disrupt the song-control system and male mating behavior. In this study, the effects of nestling exposure to environmentally relevant levels of BDE-99 were assessed in a model songbird species, the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). A tissue residue study in which zebra finch nestlings were orally exposed to 0, 2.5, 15.8, or 50.7 ng BDE-99/g body weight (bw) per day over the 21-day nesting period validated dosing methods and confirmed dose levels were environmentally relevant (332.7 ± 141.0 to 4450.2 ± 1396.2 ng/g plasma lipid). A full-scale study exposing nestlings to 0, 2.5, 15.8, 50.7, or 173.8 ng BDE-99/g bw/day was carried out to investigate long-term effects of BDE-99 on the adult song-control nuclei volumes, song quality, and male mating behavior. Early exposure to BDE-99 had significant effects on male mating behavior and the response of clean experienced females to exposed males. There was no effect on male song-control nuclei or song quality, and there were nondose-dependent effects on female song-control nuclei. The results demonstrate that early exposure to environmentally relevant levels of BDE-99 affects the behavior of zebra finches.


Margaret L Eng, John E Elliott, Scott A MacDougall-Shackleton, Robert J Letcher, Tony D Williams. Early exposure to 2,2',4,4',5-pentabromodiphenyl ether (BDE-99) affects mating behavior of zebra finches. Toxicological sciences : an official journal of the Society of Toxicology. 2012 May;127(1):269-76

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PMID: 22323513

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