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Mercury concentrations in primary feathers reflect pollutant exposure in discrete non-breeding grounds used by Short-tailed Shearwaters


We measured mercury concentrations ([Hg]) and nitrogen stable isotope ratios (δ15N) in the primary feathers of Short-tailed Shearwaters (Puffinus tenuirostris) that were tracked year-round. The [Hg] were highest in 14 birds that used the Okhotsk and northern Japan Seas during the non-breeding period (2.5 ± 1.4 μg/g), lowest in nine birds that used the eastern Bering Sea (0.8 ± 0.2 μg/g), and intermediate in five birds that used both regions (1.0 ± 0.5 μg/g), with no effects of δ15N. The results illustrate that samples from seabirds can provide a useful means of monitoring pollution at a large spatial scale.


Quecksilberkonzentrationen in Primärfedern spiegeln wider, wie sehr Kurzschwanz-Sturmtaucher in verschiedenen außerhalb der Brutzeit genutzten Gebieten Umweltschadstoffen ausgesetzt sind

Wir haben die Quecksilberkonzentrationen ([Hg]) und stabilen Stickstoffisotopenverhältnisse (δ15 N) in den Primärfedern von Kurzschwanz-Sturmtauchern (Puffinus tenuirostris), deren Bewegungen das ganze Jahr über verfolgt wurden, gemessen. [Hg] waren am höchsten (2.5 ± 1.4 μg/g) bei 14 Vögeln, die sich außerhalb der Brutzeit im Ochotskischen Meer und im nördlichen Japanischen Meer aufhielten, am niedrigsten (0.8 ± 0.2 μg/g) bei neun Vögeln, die das östliche Beringmeer nutzten, und mittelhoch (1.0 ± 0.5 μg/g) bei fünf Vögeln, die beide Regionen nutzten. δ15 N war nicht betroffen. Diese Ergebnisse zeigen, dass Proben von Seevögeln ein nützliches Mittel sein können, um Umweltverschmutzung großräumig zu beobachten.

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We thank R. Bruce, B. Nishizawa, and A. Ito for field assistance, and L. Hardy for recovering geolocator from a beached bird. Research was carried out under La Trobe University Animal Ethics Project AEC 10/32 (W) and Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries Permits to Take Wildlife for Scientific Purpose FA10161 and FA11212 held by CE Meathrel. The study was supported by JSPS (#20241001, #22405007) and the GRENE project.

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Correspondence to Yutaka Watanuki.

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Communicated by F. Bairlein.

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Watanuki, Y., Yamamoto, T., Yamashita, A. et al. Mercury concentrations in primary feathers reflect pollutant exposure in discrete non-breeding grounds used by Short-tailed Shearwaters. J Ornithol 156, 847–850 (2015).

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  • Geolocator
  • Trophic level
  • Northern North Pacific
  • Monitoring