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Mercury concentrations in king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) feathers at Crozet Islands (sub-Antarctic): temporal trend between 1966-1974 and 2000-2001

, : Mercury concentrations in king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus) feathers at Crozet Islands (sub-Antarctic): temporal trend between 1966-1974 and 2000-2001. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 24(1): 125-128

Remote sub-Antarctic islands and their wildlife may be contaminated by mercury via atmospheric and oceanic currents. Because of mercury's high toxicity and its capacity to be biomagnified in marine food chains, top predators like seabirds may be threatened by secondary poisoning. The present study provides data regarding mercury concentrations in breast feathers sampled in 2000 and 2001 on king penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) living at Crozet Islands. These contemporary concentrations were compared to those measured in feathers of king penguins sampled in the same colony between 1966 and 1974 and preserved in a museum (1970s sample). The average concentration of the contemporary sample is 1.98 microg g(-1) (dry mass) and is significantly different than the concentrations reported in some other penguin species. The concentration of the contemporary sample is significantly lower than the concentration of the 1970s sample (2.66 microg g(-1)). This suggests that mercury concentrations in southern hemisphere seabirds do not increase, which conflicts with the trends observed in the northern hemisphere. This difference in temporal trends between the northern and southern hemispheres usually is attributed mainly to a higher degree of pollutant emission in the northern hemisphere. Parameters that may explain the interspecies differences in mercury concentrations are discussed. These first results may constitute a basis for further ecotoxicological and/or biomonitoring studies of king penguins in these remote ecosystems.


PMID: 15683175

DOI: 10.1897/03-446.1

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