[en] A sample of 166 common guillemots (Uria aalge) recovered from Belgian beaches during five wintering seasons, from 1993-1994 to 1997-1998, were examined. At necropsy, postmortem examination including body mass, fat reserves, presence or not of intestinal contents, eventual status of oiling, and pathological changes (cachexia, acute hemorrhagic gastroenteropathy (GEAH)) was attributed to each individual. Mild to severe cachexia, a pathology characterized by moderate to severe atrophy of the pectoral muscle as well as reduced amounts or absence of subcutaneous and/or abdominal fat, was observed for most specimens (85.8%). Heavy metal analyses (Cu, Zn, Fe, Cd, Ni, Cr, and Pb) of the tissues (typically liver, kidney, and pectoral muscle) were performed, and total lipids were determined (liver and pectoral muscle). The guillemots collected at the Belgian coast exhibited higher Cu and Zn concentrations compared to individuals collected in more preserved areas of the North Sea such as the northern colonies. A general decrease of their total body mass as well as liver, kidney, and pectoral muscle mass was associated to increasing cachexia severity. Moreover, significantly increasing heavy metal levels (Cu and Zn) in the tissues as well as depleted muscle lipid contents were observed parallel to increasing cachexia severity. On the contrary the organs' total metal burden barely correlates to this status. These observations tend to indicate a general redistribution of heavy metals within the organs as a result of prolonged starvation and protein catabolism (cachectic status). Such a redistribution could well be an additional stress to birds already experiencing stressfull conditions (starvation, oiling).
´Impulse Programme in Marine Sciences supported by the Belgian state - The Prime Minister’s Services - Scientific, Technical and Cultural Affairs.’ (MS/12/032, MS/12/033, MN/DD/50 and MN/DD/51).