Evidence for exposure to selenium by breeding interior snowy plovers (Charadrius nivosus) in saline systems of the Southern Great Plains

H. M. Ashbaugh, W. C. Conway, D. A. Haukos, D. P. Collins, C. E. Comer, A. D. French

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Interior snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus) population declines and deteriorating conditions throughout the Southern Great Plains (SGP) of Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma may be linked to environmental contaminants. Concentrations of V, As, Cd, Pb, and Se were quantified in breeding snowy plover blood, feathers (5th primary; P5), and potential prey (tiger beetles [Cicindela circumpicta and C. togata]). Se was (a) most commonly detected relative to other quantified elements and (b) frequently quantified at levels exceeding background or toxicity thresholds. Of samples greater than instrumentation detection limits, 98% of snowy plover blood and 22% of feather samples were greater than Se toxicity thresholds of 1 ppm ww for blood and 5 ppm dw for feathers (blood quantifiable range: 0.83–15.12 ppm; feathers quantifiable range: 1.90–27.47 ppm). Almost all tiger beetle Se concentrations were below reported invertebrate thresholds of 30 ppm dw (quantifiable range: 0.54–45.84 ppm). Snowy plover blood Se concentrations were related to sex, individual body condition, and local tiger beetle Se concentrations, while plover P5 Se concentrations were related to state, sex, and presence of body molt. Tiger beetle Se concentrations were related to individual study sites in Texas. These results provide some of the first evidence of Se exposure risk for interior snowy plovers nesting in saline lake and alkali flat environments of the SGP. Future efforts should focus upon specific Se uptake pathways during breeding and nonbreeding seasons, as snowy plovers breeding in the SGP appear to be exposed to Se throughout their annual cycle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)703-718
Number of pages16
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018


  • Charadrius nivosus
  • Saline lakes
  • Selenium
  • Snowy plovers
  • Southern Great Plains
  • Trace elements


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