Mercury Distribution in Blood, Tissues, and Feathers of Double-Crested Cormorant Nestlings from Arid-Lands Reservoirs in South Central New Mexico

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Abstract.

Eggs, blood, liver, muscle, and feathers were analyzed for concentrations of total mercury in double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) nestlings from two reservoirs in south central New Mexico. Total mercury concentrations among eggs, tissues, and feathers were not significantly correlated. Concentrations of total mercury averaged 0.40 μg/g in liver and 0.18 μg/g in muscle tissues in both populations of nestlings. There were no significant changes in concentrations of total mercury in whole blood of nestlings collected 7–10 days and 17–22 days posthatch in Caballo Reservoir (0.36 μg/g and 0.39 μg/g, respectively) and in Elephant Butte Reservoir (0.36 μg/g and 0.34 μg/g, respectively). Total mercury concentrations were similar for blood, muscle, and liver in nestlings for both reservoirs. Total mercury concentrations were higher in eggs and tail, primary, and secondary feathers from nestlings at Caballo Reservoir compared to Elephant Butte Reservoir. Although there were no differences in concentrations of total mercury in fishes between the two reservoirs, bioaccumulation and biomagnification was evident in planktivorous and piscivorous fishes. The data demonstrate that feather analysis may not be a good predictor of tissue burden in nestlings from regions of low contamination.

Received: 8 July 1998/Accepted: 20 December 1998