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Intraperitoneal injections as a possible means of generating varied levels of methylmercury in the eggs of birds in field studies

Authors

  • Gary H. Heinz,

    Corresponding author
    1. U.S. Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, BARC-East, Building 308, 10300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, Maryland 20705
    • U.S. Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, BARC-East, Building 308, 10300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, Maryland 20705.
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  • David J. Hoffman,

    1. U.S. Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, BARC-East, Building 308, 10300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, Maryland 20705
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  • Jon D. Klimstra,

    1. U.S. Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, BARC-East, Building 308, 10300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, Maryland 20705
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  • Katherine R. Stebbins

    1. U.S. Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, BARC-East, Building 308, 10300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, Maryland 20705
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Abstract

The ideal study of the effects of methylmercury on the reproductive success of a species of bird would be one in which eggs contained mercury concentrations ranging from controls to very heavily contaminated, all at the same site. Such a study cannot be realized at a Hg-contaminated area or under laboratory conditions but could be achieved by introducing methylmercury into breeding females and allowing them to deposit Hg in their eggs. Female mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) were intraperitoneally injected with solutions of methylmercury chloride dissolved in corn oil, propylene glycol, dimethyl sulfoxide, mineral oil, Olestra, Crisco, lard, hard paraffin, and a combination of hard and soft paraffin. In some cases, egg laying was delayed, as a result of either the solvent itself (in the case of Olestra, Crisco, and lard) or the highest concentration of methylmercury chloride (500 µg/g) in some of the solvents. Mercury in eggs ranged from a control level (<0.1 µg/g) to approximately 14 µg/g on a wet weight basis, which more than covers the range of concentrations reported in wild bird eggs. Mercury concentrations in a series of eggs from the same female declined mostly as a result of excretion of Hg in prior eggs and not because of the length of time since the injection. Intraperitoneal injections hold promise in field studies in which one would like to study the reproductive effects of a wide range of methylmercury levels in the eggs of a wild bird and under the natural conditions that exist in the field. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:1079–1083. © 2010 SETAC

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