Identifying the provenance of Leach's storm petrels in the North Atlantic using polychlorinated biphenyl signatures derived from comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography with time-of-flight mass spectrometry

David Megson, Thomas A. Brown, Glenn W. Johnson, Gwen O'Sullivan, Anthony W. J. Bicknell, Stephen C. Votier, Maeve C. Lohan, Sean Comber, Robert Kalin, Paul J. Worsfold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


PCB signatures can be used for source identification, exposure studies, age dating and bio-monitoring. This study uses comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography with time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GCxGC-ToFMS) to produce a PCB signature comprised of over 80 PCBs for individual Leach's storm petrels (Oceanodroma leucorhoa). The Leach's storm petrel is a relatively small, elusive, understudied pelagic bird, which only returns to remote islands under darkness during the breeding season. Samples were obtained from 25 Leach's storm petrels found dead in Canada and the UK following storm events in 2006 and 2009. Tissue samples were extracted and analysed by GCxGC-ToFMS and results showed that 83 PCB congeners were present in >60% of samples. An assessment of the PCB signature in four different tissue types showed that it did not vary greatly in samples obtained from the gut, heart, liver and stomach. Multivariate statistical analysis identified a distinctive PCB signature in birds from Canada and Europe which was used to identify the regional provenance and transatlantic movement of individual birds. The findings showcase the ability of GCxGC-ToFMS to provide the high quality congener specific analysis that is necessary for PCB fingerprinting, as well as highlighting the potential of PCB signatures for use in ecological studies of movement, foraging and behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-202
Number of pages8
Early online date20 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2014


  • polychlorinated biphenyls
  • Leach’s storm petrel
  • comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography
  • time of flight mass spectrometry
  • chemical fingerprinting

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