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Trace element concentrations in feathers of seven petrels (Pterodroma spp.)

Abstract

Gadfly petrels (Pterodroma spp.) are one of the most threatened and poorly studied seabird groups, and as marine predators, are exposed to biomagnified and bioaccumulated chemical pollutants from their prey. We quantified trace element concentrations in breast feathers of seven petrel species that breed in the southern hemisphere to quantify current concentrations. Selenium (Se) concentrations were significantly lower in chicks than adults; this was not observed for zinc (Zn) or lead (Pb). Overall, the species examined here exhibited similar concentrations of Se, with Pb and Zn concentrations more variable among species. The mean Se concentration in adult birds exceeded those thought to be potentially deleterious, and three species had concentrations that were above the assumed threshold for Pb toxicity. Further investigation of potentially toxic trace elements in gadfly petrels is warranted.

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Acknowledgments

This research was undertaken with approval from the University of Tasmania Animal Ethics Committee (permit no. A13836 and A150319). The 2015 Henderson Island expedition was funded by the David & Lucille Packard Foundation, the Darwin Initiative, the Farallon Islands Foundation, British Birds and several private donors. We thank the Pitcairn Islands Environmental, Conservation, and Natural Resources Division for permission to work on Henderson Island, and S. Oppel for generous support in the field. Our thanks to Ovenstone Agencies (Pty) Ltd. and the South African Department of Environmental Affairs (South African National Antarctic Program, SANAP) for logistical support and transport to Tristan da Cunha. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the UK partner in BirdLife International, funded the Tristan da Cunha component of this research. We thank the Tristan da Cunha Conservation Department for granting permission for sample collection, and D. Fox and C. Taylor (Tristan Conservation Department) for assisting with sample collection. Finally, we thank the Western Australian Department of Parks and Wildlife for assistance on Breaksea Island and A. Finger, P. Morrison and C. Trestrail for analytical support. Comments from two anonymous reviewers improved on earlier versions of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Jennifer L. Lavers.

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Philpot, S.M., Lavers, J.L., Nugegoda, D. et al. Trace element concentrations in feathers of seven petrels (Pterodroma spp.). Environ Sci Pollut Res 26, 9640–9648 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-04406-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-04406-9

Keywords

  • Feathers
  • Lead
  • Petrels
  • Procellariiformes
  • Selenium
  • Zinc