Environment | Local

Cracking The Mystery Of Unhatched Condor Eggs

OPB | Sept. 20, 2013 11:44 a.m. | Portland

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An Oregon Zoo Foundation-funded study has cracked the mystery of why some California condor eggs don’t hatch.

A California condor soars over the California coast near Big Sur.

A California condor soars over the California coast near Big Sur.

Joe Burnett / Ventana Wildlife Society.

Forty-year-old underwater chemicals are to blame, the study’s authors found.

Sea lions have been feeding near a Superfund site in Southern California, and in the process ingesting the banned pesticide DDT, said the Ventana Wildlife Society’s Joe Burnett, co-author of the study. After the sea lions die, condors feed on their carcasses — and consume the chemical in the process. DDT has long been known to weaken bird eggshells.

A new study by the Ventana Wildlife Society, supported in part by the Oregon Zoo Foundation, has linked weakened condor eggshells to DDT, ingested when the endangered birds feed on contaminated sea lion carcasses.

A new study by the Ventana Wildlife Society, supported in part by the Oregon Zoo Foundation, has linked weakened condor eggshells to DDT, ingested when the endangered birds feed on contaminated sea lion carcasses.

Joe Burnett / Ventana Wildlife Society.

“Marine mammals can act as vectors for a variety of contaminants,” Oregon Zoo deputy conservation manager David Shepherdson said in a statement.

In 2014, the zoo foundation plans to fund more research investigating how toxins in marine mammals affect birds.

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