Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mercury & Migration

This is an old post that I could get to work because my blogger account was acting funny.

I just started working in the lab at William & Mary last Friday, and I've been trying to read lots of papers to come up with research ideas. I just read a great literature review that's still in-press and it's given me a few interesting ideas. Mercury is a toxin which readily influences bird physiology causing neurological and reproductive impairment in addition to many other detrimental effects. I'm interested in how mercury affects birds at the population level. For migratory passerines, migration can be a great source of mortality, and Saracco and Desante (2008) named 1st year survival to be the major contributing factor for maintaining bird population levels. Undoubtedly, this is most readily influenced by habitat destruction and fragmentation, but ecotoxins could have an effect.

Mercury's physiological effects could impair the ability to successfully migrate. Mercury reduces haem production, an essential cofactor for the production of hemoglobin. Mercury also increases asymmetry, which may impair flight


Saracco, J. F., and D. F. DeSante. 2008. Identifying proximate causes of population trends in migratory birds: An analysis of special variation at the scale of Bird Conservation Regions in vital rates and population trends from the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program. A report by the Institute for Bird Populations funded under NFWF Project No. 2005-0260-000.

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