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Title: The Influence of Diet on Mercury Intake by Little Tern Chicks
Authors: Paiva, Vitor H. 
Tavares, Paula C. 
Ramos, Jaime A. 
Pereira, Eduarda 
Antunes, Sandra 
Duarte, Armando C. 
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: Springer
Citation: Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. 55:2 (2008) 317-328
Abstract: We assessed mercury levels in the feathers of little tern (Sternula albifrons) chicks from hatching to fledging and in their prey captured by adults in three main foraging habitats: lagoon, salinas, and adjacent sea. These data were used to model mercury concentration in chick feathers through food ingestion, in order to explore the effects that changes in diet would have on the mercury burden of chicks as they aged. The mercury concentration in feathers of chicks raised in sandy beaches was higher than in those raised in salinas. Lagoon prey had a significantly higher mercury concentration (0.18 ± 0.09 µg g-1 dry weight [d.w.]) than prey from salinas and the adjacent sea (both 0.06 ± 0.03 µg g-1 d.w.). In relation to prey species group, mercury content was significantly higher for bottom fish (0.17 ± 0.10 µg g-1 d.w.) than for pelagic (0.08 ± 0.06 µg g-1 d.w.), euryhaline fish (0.04 ± 0.02 µg g-1 d.w.), and crustacea (0.08 ± 0.03 µg g-1 d.w.). To understand the importance of mercury content of each prey group, we ran several theoretical scenarios assuming that chicks were fed on only one species at a time. Considering a diet restricted to lagoon (mostly benthic) prey, A- and B-chicks may encounter health problems with an excess of mercury. On the contrary, a diet restricted to marine (mostly pelagic) prey would decrease the mercury concentration in chick feathers; the fast growth rate and the related mercury dilution effect in little tern chicks seem to decrease mercury levels in their feathers. Our study supports the fact that marine pelagic prey are important for estuarine seabirds because they provide a food resource with lower contamination levels. This model may have a wider application in similar seabird species and coastal environments.
DOI: 10.1007/s00244-007-9118-x
Rights: openAccess
Appears in Collections:FCTUC Ciências da Vida - Artigos em Revistas Internacionais

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