Mercury levels and health parameters in the threatened Olrog’s Gull (Larus atlanticus) from Argentina
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Mercury (Hg) exposure was investigated through feathers of Olrog’s Gull and related to health parameters in adults (hematocrit, total plasma proteins, morphometric measures, sex) and chicks (hematocrit, total plasma proteins, immunoglobulins G and M) from a colony located in estuary of Bahía Blanca, Argentina. Mercury concentrations were 5.50 ± 2.59 μg g − 1 (n = 44) in live adults, 1.85 ± 0.45 μg g − 1 (n = 45) in live chicks and 1.81 ± 0.41 μg g − 1 (n = 41) in dead chicks. Large differences were observed between live adults and live or dead chicks and small differences between live and dead chicks. In the adults, the sex of the birds was the variable that best explained Hg concentrations. Male birds had higher concentrations than females; this suggests that the clutch provides a sink for mercury during egg laying. Hg concentrations in both adults and live chicks were associated with higher hematocrits. This could be associated with upregulated erythropoiesis to compensate for increased rate of destruction of prematurely senescent, Hg-contaminated erythrocytes. Based on our results, on the levels of Hg pollution in the past in the study area, and on the dietary specialization of Olrog’s Gull, we must be vigilant about potential negative effects of Hg pollution on this population and recommend continued monitoring on this threatened species.
KeywordsOlrog’s Gull Larus atlanticus Mercury pollution Health Feathers Bahía Blanca estuary
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