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Rapid increases in mercury concentrations in the eggs of mallards fed methylmercury

Authors

  • Gary H. Heinz,

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

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

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

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

To determine how quickly breeding birds would have to feed in a mercury-contaminated area before harmful concentrations of mercury, as methylmercury, built up in their eggs, we fed female mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) a control diet or diets containing 0.5, 1, 2, 4, or 8 μg/g mercury (on what was close to a dry weight basis) as methylmercury chloride for 23 d. After 18 d on their respective mercury diets, the eggs of mallards fed 0.5, 1, 2, 4, or 8 μg/g mercury contained 97.8, 86.0, 89.9, 88.9, and 85.9%, respectively, of the peak concentrations reached after 23 d. Depending on the dietary concentration of mercury, no more than approximately a week may be required for harmful concentrations (0.5–0.8 μg/g, wet weight) to be excreted into eggs.

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