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Impact of Low Level Mercury Exposure on Reproductive and Development in Birds


Issue:

The NAES team has developed a model which we believe is useful in testing whether low-dose exposure to environmental and agrochemical contaminants has an adverse effect on migratory birds. We use the homing pigeon as our avian model to determine the impact of various environmental and agrochemical exposures to migratory birds. Although a wide-ranging number of studies have detailed bioaccumulation and adverse effects on avian physiology and reproduction, the effect of non-lethal, low-dose exposures has not conversely been studied at length.

NAES’s prior work has shown that at low methylmercury concentrations, flight times of homing pigeons from a particular distance are greatly affected. For the purposes of this study, the project assess effects on reproduction and development at levels lower than those that may cause behavioral abnormalities in adults.

What has been done?

In 2013, assessment of the impact of methyl mercury on avian reproduction using the homing pigeon as our model. Findings were reported for exposure at 1.0 mg/kg body wt/day. For 2014 the team conducted a similar studies at lower dosages in order to assess a dose-dependent response (0.5 mg MeHG/kg body wt/day), or ½ the dosage tested the previous year.

Impact:

The results of this research indicate that even at significantly lower exposure levels to methyl mercury offspring were taking longer to fledge and were overweight. These findings have now been appended to the national models. The Avian Model developed here at the University of Nevada, as well as the information collected on environmental contaminants’ effects on birds has now been incorporated into the US Department of Interior’s Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Programs as it relates to migratory birds. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has also included our avian model into their assessments of avian toxicology related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Chris Pritsos

Department of CABNR/NAES - Administration

1664 North Virginia Street

Reno, Nevada   89557

 

Phone: (775) 784-1601

Email: pritsos@cabnr.unr.edu

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