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Effects of low dietary levels of methyl mercury on mallard reproduction


Mallard ducks were fed a control diet or a diet containing 0.5 ppm or 3 ppm mercury (as methylmercury dicyandiamide). Health of adults and reproductive success were studied. The dietary level of 3 ppm mercury had harmful effects on reproduction, although it did not appear to affect the health of the adults during the 12 months of dosage. Ducks that were fed the diet containing 0.5 ppm mercury reproduced as well as controls, and ducklings from parents fed 0.5 ppm mercury grew faster in the first week of life than did controls.

The greatest harm to reproduction associated with the diet containing 3 ppm mercury was an increase in duckling mortality, but reduced egg laying and increased embryonic mortality also occurred.

During the peak of egg laying, eggs laid by controls tended to be heavier than eggs laid by ducks fed either level of mercury; however, there seemed to be no eggshell thinning associated with mercury treatment.

Levels of mercury reached about 1 ppm in eggs from ducks fed a dietary dosage of 0.5 ppm mercury and between 6 and 9 ppm in the eggs from ducks fed 3 ppm mercury.

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Heinz, G. Effects of low dietary levels of methyl mercury on mallard reproduction. Bull. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 11, 386–392 (1974).

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