Trace Element Concentrations in Feathers of Flesh-footed Shearwaters (Puffinus carneipes) from Across Their Breeding Range

  • Alexander L. BondEmail author
  • Jennifer L. Lavers


Seabirds are convenient indicators of contamination of the marine environment because feathers can be sampled non-destructively, and a great deal is known about their ecology. Flesh-footed Shearwaters (Puffinus carneipes) are of conservation concern in Australia and New Zealand, partly because ingestion of marine debris may be reducing breeding success at their largest colony. Because marine plastics accumulate contaminants in the ocean environment, an assessment of metal and metalloid contaminants was initiated. We sampled feathers from Kauwahaia (n = 18) and Lady Alice Island, New Zealand (n = 30), Lord Howe Island (n = 24) and Western Australia (n = 33) during the 2008 austral summer, making this the most complete assessment of metal and metalloid contamination of any shearwater. We found colony differences in all elements except lead and thallium. Samples from Western Australia had higher silver, aluminium, cadmium, and copper concentrations, while shearwaters from Lord Howe Island (eastern Australia) had elevated concentrations of mercury (mean ± S.D., 11221 ± 5612 ppb). We conclude that mercury, and potentially arsenic and cadmium represent toxicological concerns for this declining species.


Arsenic Inductively Couple Plasma Mass Spectrometry Internal Tissue Marine Bird Marine Debris 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities Programme (CERF Hub), Government of Australia Endeavour Research Fellowship, Marine Biodiversity and Conservation Management Research Grant (CSIRO), and the Royal Navy Bird Watching Society Captain Simpson Scholarship provided funding for this project. Special thanks go to B. Baker, A. Booth, C. Powell, J. Pridham, T. Reid, C. Stone (Ngatiwai Trust), G. Taylor, D. Thompson, and the Lord Howe Island Board. W. Diegor provided analytical support. We also thank E. Butler for valuable discussions and improvements to this manuscript. Previous drafts were also improved by comments from two anonymous reviewers.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyMemorial University of NewfoundlandSt. John’sCanada
  2. 2.University of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  3. 3.Wealth from Oceans National FlagshipCSIRO Marine and Atmospheric ResearchHobartAustralia

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