UNT biologists to expand pesticide research

Tuesday, March 22, 2016 - 16:10
Bobwhite Quail
Bobwhite Quail

DENTON (UNT), Texas -- A group of University of North Texas biologists have received funding to expand research into how commonly used pesticides affect Texas quail populations, and the results may have implications to human health.

Neonicotinoids are a neuro-active component of the most widely used pesticides in the world. Recent studies have shown them to have an impact on honeybee colonies, and the U.S. EPA has recognized neonicotinoids as a threat to pollinators.

Kelly Reyna, University of North Texas assistant professor of biology and executive director of UNT Quail, aims to find out how neonicotinoids affect quail that may eat coated seeds or plants, and how quail embryos develop in the presence of the pesticide.

"In early tests we found that if we expose fertile quail eggs to the pesticide, the embryos develop enlarged hearts, small lungs and other developmental abnormalities," Reyna said. "For our next phase of research we hope to learn more about whether adult quail that ingest pesticide coated seeds transfer these affects to their offspring."

These results could shed light not only on how wildlife, like quail, respond to pesticides in their environment, but also on how humans, adults and children, respond to ingestion of neonicotinoids in their food.

"Ultimately, we are seeing changes in gene regulation and developmental trajectory of a vertebrate species due to neonicotinoid exposure," Reyna said. "If we show transgenerational effects this could have huge implications for autism and other developmental disabilities."

Reyna will work with Associate Professor Dane Crossley, Associate Professor Jeff Johnson and graduate student Amanda Gobeli on the project.

Funding was granted by the Reversing the Quail Decline in Texas Initiative and the Upland Game Bird Stamp Fund based on a collaborative effort between Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Philanthropic funding was provided by Kristin Farmer, president of ACES – an autism and developmental disabilities service provider.

About UNT Quail

UNT Quail is a comprehensive wildlife program that fosters sustainable quail populations through innovative research, conservation and education. UNT Quail is associated with the Developmental Integrative Biology Cluster in Biological Sciences and a part of the Advanced Environmental Research Institute at the University of North Texas.

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