Publications by authors named "Alexandra Esther"

13 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Non-Invasively Collected Fecal Samples as Indicator of Multiple Pesticide Exposure in Wild Birds.

Environ Toxicol Chem 2021 Nov 24. Epub 2021 Nov 24.

University of Münster, Institute of Landscape Ecology, Münster, Germany.

Pesticide use poses a potential hazard to wild birds that use agricultural farmland as their foraging habitat. While most current pesticide studies have found residues in liver samples and single active substances, non-invasive sampling methods and data on a wide variety of agrochemicals are needed to determine pesticide exposure of living wild birds for post-registration monitoring. We collected feces during autumn migration of Eurasian Skylarks (Alauda arvensis), a species that commonly forages in winter cereal crops. Birds were kept in paper bags until we measured their body condition, individually marked and released them back into the wild. We analysed the feces dropped in paper bags for the presence of 80 pesticides including rodenticides and degradation products. Nine active substances from fungicides and herbicides commonly used in grain and maize fields were detected individually, or in combination, in 25% of the samples. We found no significant differences in body condition between exposed and unexposed birds, but Eurasian Skylarks without pesticide residues tended to have a better body condition than birds with pesticide residues. Pesticide determination in non-invasively collected fecal samples enables a refined risk analysis, which takes pesticides used in the habitats of birds into account. It allows the search for the sources of pesticide contamination, but also enables research into potential deleterious effects on the fitness of farmland birds. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/etc.5260DOI Listing
November 2021

Proposed Indoor Test Procedure to Quantify Pesticide Treatment Effects on Seed Consumption by Birds.

Environ Toxicol Chem 2020 02 27;39(2):359-370. Epub 2019 Dec 27.

Julius Kuehn Institute, Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, Institute for Crop and Soil Science, Braunschweig, Germany.

Pesticides used in seed coatings can influence seed consumption by birds and, therefore, actual exposure risk for them. A quantification of such effects on consumption is currently not regarded as a refinement factor in environmental risk assessments, although it is a possible option and should be considered, for example, for comparing exposure risk of different pesticides. It can highlight avoidance behavior, preventing birds from taking up lethal or sublethal pesticide doses. To formulate a standard, we developed an indoor test procedure based on established pen test methods, including 2- and no-choice phases with hunger periods. During testing, the highest standards of animal welfare were applied. Statistical approaches were used to determine the most appropriate number of replicates and for analysis. The effect on consumption of seeds is expressed as the ratio of consumed treated to untreated seeds. This consumption factor can be applied in avian risk assessments for seed treatments equivalent to an avoidance factor. We present, as an example, an application of the procedure to obtain a seed- and species-specific consumption factor for oilseed rape seeds (Brassica napus) provided untreated and treated with fungicides to greenfinches (Carduelis chloris) and Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica). Overall, bird constitution was not negatively affected by the test procedure in either species. The test procedure was suitable for showing differences in expected consumption patterns, such as greater avoidance of treated seeds in 2-choice than in no-choice tests. However, the consumption differed between species and fungicide treatments, allowing us to rank avoidance effects of different fungicides. Using the presented standard procedure to generate comparable pesticide- and species-specific consumption factors for more species and seed treatments may result in refinement of default values and reduce animal trials in different designs in the future. Environ Toxicol Chem 2020;39:359-370. © 2019 The Authors. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of SETAC.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/etc.4620DOI Listing
February 2020

The potential of VKORC1 polymorphisms in Mustelidae for evolving anticoagulant resistance through selection along the food chain.

PLoS One 2019 29;14(8):e0221706. Epub 2019 Aug 29.

Institute for Plant Protection in Horticulture and Forests, Julius Kühn Institute, Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, Münster, Germany.

In response to strong selection, new mutations can arise quickly and sweep through populations, particularly, if survival and reproduction depend on certain allele copies for adaptation to rapidly changing environments, like resistance against deadly diseases or strong toxins. Since the 1950s, resistance to anticoagulant rodenticides in several rodents has emerged through single nucleotide mutations in the vitamin-K-epoxid-reductase-complex-subunit-1 (VKORC1) gene, often located in its exon 3. Detection of high prevalence and concentrations of anticoagulant rodenticides in non-target vertebrates, including carnivorous Mustelidae, let us assume that secondary exposure by feeding on poisoned prey may also cause selection along the food chain and we hypothesized that VKORC1-based resistance might also have evolved in rodents' predators. Using newly-developed mustelid-specific primers for direct sequencing of genomic DNA, we studied VKORC1-DNA-polymorphisms in 115 mustelids of five species (Martes martes, M. foina, Mustela nivalis, M. erminea, M. putorius), obtained from northern Denmark, yielding six sites with nonsynonymous and several synonymous amino acid polymorphisms in exon 3. Comparison of these VKORC1-genotypes with hepatic rodenticide residues (obtained by HPLC combined with fluorescence or mass spectrometry) in 83 individuals (except M. martes), using generalized linear models, suggested that anticoagulant levels depended on species and specific polymorphisms. Although most VKORC-1 polymorphisms may present standing genetic variation, some are situated in resistance-mediating membrane parts of the VKORC1-encoded protein, and might be a result of selection due to exposure to anticoagulant poisons. Our new molecular markers might allow detecting indirect effects of anticoagulant rodenticides on rodent predator populations in the future.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0221706PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6715177PMC
March 2020

Global population divergence and admixture of the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus).

Proc Biol Sci 2016 Oct;283(1841)

Louis Calder Center, Biological Field Station, Fordham University, Armonk, NY 10504, USA

Native to China and Mongolia, the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) now enjoys a worldwide distribution. While black rats and the house mouse tracked the regional development of human agricultural settlements, brown rats did not appear in Europe until the 1500s, suggesting their range expansion was a response to relatively recent increases in global trade. We inferred the global phylogeography of brown rats using 32 k SNPs, and detected 13 evolutionary clusters within five expansion routes. One cluster arose following a southward expansion into Southeast Asia. Three additional clusters arose from two independent eastward expansions: one expansion from Russia to the Aleutian Archipelago, and a second to western North America. Westward expansion resulted in the colonization of Europe from which subsequent rapid colonization of Africa, the Americas and Australasia occurred, and multiple evolutionary clusters were detected. An astonishing degree of fine-grained clustering between and within sampling sites underscored the extent to which urban heterogeneity shaped genetic structure of commensal rodents. Surprisingly, few individuals were recent migrants, suggesting that recruitment into established populations is limited. Understanding the global population structure of R. norvegicus offers novel perspectives on the forces driving the spread of zoonotic disease, and aids in development of rat eradication programmes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2016.1762DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5095384PMC
October 2016

Vkorc1 sequencing suggests anticoagulant resistance in rats in New Zealand.

Pest Manag Sci 2017 Jan 25;73(1):262-266. Epub 2016 May 25.

Julius Kühn Institute, Münster, Germany.

Background: Anticoagulant toxins are used globally to control rats. Resistance of Rattus species to these toxins now occurs in at least 18 countries in Europe, America and Asia. Resistance is often associated with single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the Vkorc1 gene. This study gives a first overview of the distribution and frequency of Vkorc1 SNPs in rats in New Zealand. New Zealand is unusual in having no native rodents but three species of introduced Rattus - norvegicus Berk., rattus L. and exulans Peale.

Results: Sequence variants occurred in at least one species of rat at all 30 of the sites sampled. Three new SNPs were identified, one in kiore and two in ship rats. No SNPs previously associated with resistance were found in Norway rats or kiore, but seven ship rats were heterozygous and one homozygous for the A74T variant. Its resultant Tyr25Phe mutation has previously been associated with resistance to both first- and second-generation anticoagulants in ship rats in Spain.

Conclusions: This is the first evidence of potential resistance to anticoagulant toxins in rats in New Zealand. Further testing using blood clotting response times in dosed rats is needed to confirm resistance potentially conferred by the Tyr25Phe mutation. Assessment is also needed of the potential of the other non-synonymous variants (Ala14Val, Ala26Val) recorded in this study to confer resistance to anticoagulant toxins. © 2016 Society of Chemical Industry.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ps.4304DOI Listing
January 2017

Prey composition modulates exposure risk to anticoagulant rodenticides in a sentinel predator, the barn owl.

Sci Total Environ 2016 Feb 3;544:150-7. Epub 2015 Dec 3.

Julius Kühn Institute, Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, Institute for Plant Protection in Horticulture and Forests, Vertebrate Research, Toppheideweg 88, 48161 Münster, Germany.

Worldwide, small rodents are main prey items for many mammalian and avian predators. Some rodent species have pest potential and are managed with anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs). ARs are consumed by target and non-target small mammals and can lead to secondary exposure of predators. The development of appropriate risk mitigation strategies is important and requires detailed knowledge of AR residue pathways. From July 2011 to October 2013 we collected 2397 regurgitated barn owl (Tyto alba) pellets to analyze diet composition of owls on livestock farms in western Germany. 256 of them were fresh pellets that were collected during brodifacoum baiting. Fresh pellets and 742 liver samples of small mammals that were trapped during baiting in the same area were analyzed for residues of ARs. We calculated exposure risk of barn owls to ARs by comparing seasonal diet composition of owls with AR residue patterns in prey species. Risk was highest in autumn, when barn owls increasingly preyed on Apodemus that regularly showed AR residues, sometimes at high concentrations. The major prey species (Microtus spp.) that was consumed most frequently in summer had less potential to contribute to secondary poisoning of owls. There was no effect of AR application on prey composition. We rarely detected ARs in pellets (2 of 256 samples) but 13% of 38 prey individuals in barn owl nests were AR positive and substantiated the expected pathway. AR residues were present in 55% of 11 barn owl carcasses. Fluctuation in non-target small mammal abundance and differences in AR residue exposure patterns in prey species drives exposure risk for barn owls and probably other predators of small mammals. Exposure risk could be minimized through spatial and temporal adaption of AR applications (avoiding long baiting and non-target hot spots at farms) and through selective bait access for target animals.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.11.117DOI Listing
February 2016

Relation between Intensity of Biocide Practice and Residues of Anticoagulant Rodenticides in Red Foxes (Vulpes vulpes).

PLoS One 2015 29;10(9):e0139191. Epub 2015 Sep 29.

Julius Kühn Institute, Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, Institute for Plant Protection in Horticulture and Forests, Vertebrate Research, Münster, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.

Anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs) are commonly used to control rodent infestations for biocidal and plant protection purposes. This can lead to AR exposure of non-target small mammals and their predators, which is known from several regions of the world. However, drivers of exposure variation are usually not known. To identify environmental drivers of AR exposure in non-targets we analyzed 331 liver samples of red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) for residues of eight ARs and used local parameters (percentage of urban area and livestock density) to test for associations to residue occurrence. 59.8% of samples collected across Germany contained at least one rodenticide, in 20.2% of cases at levels at which biological effects are suspected. Second generation anticoagulants (mainly brodifacoum and bromadiolone) occurred more often than first generation anticoagulants. Local livestock density and the percentage of urban area were good indicators for AR residue occurrence. There was a positive association between pooled ARs and brodifacoum occurrence with livestock density as well as of pooled ARs, brodifacoum and difenacoum occurrence with the percentage of urban area on administrative district level. Pig holding drove associations of livestock density to AR residue occurrence in foxes. Therefore, risk mitigation strategies should focus on areas of high pig density and on highly urbanized areas to minimize non-target risk.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0139191PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4587841PMC
June 2016

VKOR variant and sex are the main influencing factors on bromadiolone tolerance of the house mouse (Mus musculus L.).

Pest Manag Sci 2016 Mar 13;72(3):574-9. Epub 2015 May 13.

Institute of Pesticides and Environmental Protection, Zemun, Belgrade, Serbia.

Background: After reports of management problems in practice, a survey was conducted to determine the presence of bromadiolone-resistant animals in different house mouse (Mus musculus L.) populations in Serbia. A 21 day no-choice feeding test was carried out to examine the resistance of house mice to bromadiolone. Eighty house mice collected from four locations (ten males and ten females per location) were tested for bromadiolone tolerance. Surviving animals and their F1 offspring were screened for mutations. The influence of VKOR variant, zygosity and sex on bromadiolone tolerance was analysed.

Results: Bait intake and changes in body weight revealed different animal responses regarding susceptibility or resistance. Leu128Ser, Tyr139Cys and a new Ala21Thr polymorphism were detected in wild-born survivors and their F1 generation. However, not every individual with the polymorphisms Leu128Ser and Tyr139Cys survived the feeding test. VKOR variants and sex caused variations in bromadiolone tolerance.

Conclusion: For the first time it was shown that the VKOR variant, along with sex, is responsible for bromadiolone tolerance in house mice. Other factors influencing bromadiolone tolerance, including sex-specific factors, cannot be excluded. The tolerance levels of VKOR variants should be determined in further studies in order to evaluate the effectiveness of bromadiolone in sustainable management.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ps.4027DOI Listing
March 2016

Spatial and temporal exposure patterns in non-target small mammals during brodifacoum rat control.

Sci Total Environ 2014 Oct 1;496:328-338. Epub 2014 Aug 1.

Julius Kühn Institute, Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, Institute for Plant Protection in Horticulture and Forests, Vertebrate Research, Toppheideweg 88, 48161 Münster, Germany.

Worldwide pest rodents on livestock farms are often regulated using anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs). Second generation ARs in particular can cause poisoning in non-target species due to their high toxicity and persistence. However, research on exposure of small mammals is rare. We systematically investigated spatial and temporal exposure patterns of non-target small mammals in a large-scale replicated study. Small mammals were trapped at different distances to bait stations on ten farms before, during and after brodifacoum (BR) bait application, and liver samples of 1178 non-target small mammals were analyzed for residues of eight ARs using liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry. BR residues were present in 23% out of 742 samples collected during and after baiting. We found clear spatial and temporal exposure patterns. High BR residue concentrations mainly occurred within 15m from bait stations. Occurrence and concentrations of residues significantly decreased with increasing distance. This pattern was found in almost all investigated taxa. After baiting, significantly more individuals contained residues than during baiting but concentrations were considerably lower. Residue occurrence and concentrations differed significantly among taxa, with the highest maximal residue concentrations in Apodemus species, which are protected in Germany. Although Sorex species are known to be insectivorous we regularly found residues in this genus. Residues of active agents other than brodifacoum were rare in all samples. The confirmation of substantial primary exposure in non-target small mammals close to the baiting area indicates considerable risk of secondary poisoning of predators, a pathway that was possibly underestimated until now. Our results will help to develop risk mitigation strategies to reduce risk for non-target small mammals, as well as their predators, in relation to biocidal AR usage.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2014.07.049DOI Listing
October 2014

Distribution of anticoagulant rodenticide resistance in Rattus norvegicus in the Netherlands according to Vkorc1 mutations.

Pest Manag Sci 2014 Nov 21;70(11):1761-6. Epub 2014 May 21.

Wageningen UR Livestock Research, Lelystad, The Netherlands.

Background: Rodenticide resistance to anticoagulants in Rattus norvegicus will lead to increased difficulties in combating these pest animals. Here, the authors present the results of a survey in the Netherlands where tissue samples and droppings were tested using a newly developed TaqMan PCR test for genotypic variation at codon 139 in the Vkorc1 gene associated with anticoagulant rodenticide resistance. Test results are linked to results of a questionnaire that was conducted among pest controllers.

Results: Genetic mutations at codon 139 of the Vkorc1 gene in R. norvegicus can be encountered in many parts of the Netherlands. In 34/61 rat tails, a genotype was found that is linked to anticoagulant rodenticide resistance (56%). In droppings, 42/169 samples (25%) showed a resistance-mediating genotype. In addition, indications of a clear genetic substructure in the Netherlands were found. In some regions, only resistance-mediating genotypes were found, corroborating results from the questionnaire in which pest controllers indicated they suspected resistance to anticoagulant rodenticides.

Conclusion: This is the first study to demonstrate the presence of multiple genetic mutations at codon 139 of the Vkorc1 gene in R. norvegicus in the Netherlands. As rodenticides should keep their efficacy because they are a last resort in rodent management, more studies are urgently needed that link specific genetic mutations to the efficacy of active substances.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ps.3809DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4238836PMC
November 2014

Distribution of rodenticide resistance and zoonotic pathogens in Norway rats in Lower Saxony and Hamburg, Germany.

Pest Manag Sci 2013 Mar 8;69(3):403-8. Epub 2012 Aug 8.

Lower Saxony State Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (LAVES), Food and Veterinary Institute Braunschweig/Hannover, Hannover, Germany.

Background: Genetically based resistance to anticoagulants has led to increasing difficulties in the control of rodents over recent decades. The possible impact of rodenticide-resistant rats on the infection risk of humans and livestock by zoonotic pathogens is generally unknown. Hence, in a monitoring programme in the German federal states of Lower Saxony and Hamburg, more than 500 Norway rats were analysed for both Tyr139Cys polymorphisms within the VKORC1 gene and zoonotic agents.

Results: Evidence of resistance was almost completely restricted to the known resistance area in southern Lower Saxony. Homozygous mutations were only found in urban areas sampled owing to the occurrence of rat control problems and were missing in bycatches of rats by muskrat trappers in rural areas. In more than 25% of the rats, zoonotic bacteria (Leptospira, Salmonella, Yersinia and Coxiella) were detected. There was no obvious correlation between the occurrence of rats carrying zoonotic pathogens and anticoagulant resistance.

Conclusion: Zoonotic agents and genetically based resistance conferred by the Tyr139Cys polymorphism are both unevenly distributed in Lower Saxony. The study provides the basis for further studies focusing on districts with high levels of pathogens and resistance to assess the potential health risk of their combined occurrence.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ps.3369DOI Listing
March 2013

Assessing the effects of three potential chemical repellents to prevent bird damage to corn seeds and seedlings.

Pest Manag Sci 2013 Mar 12;69(3):425-30. Epub 2012 Apr 12.

Julius Kühn-Institute, Federal Research Institute for Cultivated Plants, Institute for Plant Protection in Horticulture and Forests, Vertebrate Research, Münster, Germany.

Background: Bird damage to seeds and seedlings of maize (Zea mays) and other crops is widespread, especially in organic farming, because no adequate seed protection is available. In this study, the effect of seed treatments with three substances likely to affect bird feeding behaviour (anthraquinone, pulegone and methyl anthranilate) was tested. Their repellent effect was tested in food and seedling choice (treated versus untreated) experiments with feral pigeons (Columba livia f. domestica) in aviaries. Most efficient variants were additionally tested in the field, where wild birds had unlimited access.

Results: In aviaries, untreated seeds were clearly preferred over treated seeds by pigeons. The highest feeding deterrence effect occurred with the treatment variants pulegone 1.4 mL kg(-1) and methyl anthranilate 0.085 mL kg(-1). In contrast, there was no repellent effect if seedlings were offered to the pigeons in aviaries. The same applies to the number of maize seeds and seedlings grown from treated and untreated seeds, which were damaged in the field mainly by pheasants (Phasianus colchicus).

Conclusion: The study shows that the chemicals failed to repel feeding by birds in Germany. Further studies should concentrate on alternative, systemic effective substances possibly based on plant secondary metabolites to yield a bird repellent usable in organic farming.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ps.3288DOI Listing
March 2013

Distribution and frequency of VKORC1 sequence variants conferring resistance to anticoagulants in Mus musculus.

Pest Manag Sci 2012 Feb 6;68(2):254-9. Epub 2011 Sep 6.

Julius Kühn-Institut, Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, Vertebrate Research, Münster, Germany.

Background: Emerging resistance to anticoagulant rodenticides may significantly impair house mouse (Mus musculus L.) control. As in humans and rats, sequence variants in the gene vitamin K epoxide reductase complex subunit 1 (VKORC1) of house mice are strongly implicated in the responses of mice to anticoagulants. This study gives a first overview of the distribution and frequency of such potentially resistance-conferring sequence variants in house mice, based on tissue samples from 30 populations in Germany, Switzerland and the Azores.

Results: Except for one population from south Germany, sequence variants were found in individuals from all locations sampled (29 out of 30 sites surveyed), with less than 10% of the individuals matching the wild-type genotype. The most frequent and widespread amino acid substitutions were Leu128Ser, Tyr139Cys and a group of linked sequence changes (Arg12Trp/Ala26Ser/Ala48Thr/Arg61Leu). Where these substitutions occurred as the sole variant, the proportion of homozygous individuals was 72-83%.

Conclusions: An evaluation of published data revealed that the three most frequently found sequence variants are associated with a substantial loss of rodenticide efficacy of first-generation anticoagulants (e.g. warfarin, coumatetralyl), as well as the second-generation compound bromadiolone and most probably also difenacoum. Knowledge of the distribution and frequency of resistance-conferring sequence variants will stimulate their further functional characterisation and facilitate the choice of effective active substances for house mouse control.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ps.2254DOI Listing
February 2012
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