Blood mercury levels and the stopover refueling performance of a long-distance migratory songbird

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Abstract:

I examined the relationship between total mercury (THg) and plasma triglyceride (TRIG; an indicator of body mass change) levels in the blood of migrating Northern Waterthrushes (Parkesia noveboracensis (Gmelin, 1789)) to test the hypothesis that mercury has a negative influence on the stopover refueling rates of migratory birds. THg levels averaged 0.42 ppm and ranged 0.09–2.08 ppm. Model selection indicated that THg was not important for explaining variation in TRIG relative to capture time, body mass, and year. Summed model weights also indicated that THg had low relative importance. Capture time appeared alone in the global best model and had the greatest relative importance. Subsets of birds in the 25th and 75th percentiles of THg level did not have different levels of TRIG. THg in most birds was higher than mean blood levels reported for several other long-distance migrants from the same geographic region, but below the lowest blood level recently determined to cause adverse effects (reduced reproductive success) in a passerine (0.7 ppm). Blood THg levels in this study did not seem to affect foraging efficiency or other attributes of Northern Waterthrushes enough to reduce their stopover refueling rate. Research is needed to identify mercury effect levels for neurological, physiological, and behavioral changes that would impair the migration performance of passerine birds.
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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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