Relationships between heavy metal and metallothionein concentrations in lesser black-backed gulls, Larus fuscus, and Cory's shearwater, Calonectris diomedea

  • F. M. Stewart
  • R. W. Furness
  • L. R. Monteiro


Metallothionein, cadmium, zinc, copper, and mercury concentrations were measured in adult lesser black-backed gulls, Larus fuscus; and metallothionein, cadmium, zinc, and copper concentrations were measured in fledgling Cory's shearwaters, Calonectris diomedea. In gulls, metallothionein was positively correlated with cadmium (kidney r=0.83, liver r=0.46), zinc (kidney r=0.46, liver r=0.37), and copper (kidney r=0.28, liver r=0.34). Mercury levels in lesser black-backed gulls showed no correlations with metallothionein or with any other metal. In shearwaters metallothionein was positively correlated with cadmium in the kidney (r=0.41) but not in liver, zinc in kidney (r=0.43) and liver (r=0.52), and copper in kidney (r=0.55) but not in liver. Cadmium levels were the most important factor determining tissue metallothionein concentrations in adult lesser black-backed gulls demonstrating the role of metallothionein in heavy metal detoxification. In fledgling Cory's shearwaters, the most important factor in determining metallothionein concentrations in kidney was copper concentrations, and in liver, zinc concentrations. During the latter phases of chick growth high levels of zinc are required for feather development, and at this time the binding of cadmium may be masked by the presence of a large amount of zinc- and copper-bound metallothionein. These results illustrate disparate roles of metallothionein, the levels of which will be in a state of flux both seasonally and annually.


Copper Zinc Heavy Metal Mercury Cadmium 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • F. M. Stewart
    • 1
  • R. W. Furness
    • 1
  • L. R. Monteiro
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Applied Ornithology UnitUniversity of GlasgowGlasgowUK
  2. 2.Department of Oceanography and FisheriesUniversity of the AzoresHortaPortugal

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