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Mercury in the feathers of bird scavengers from two areas of Patagonia (Argentina) under the influence of different anthropogenic activities: a preliminary study

Di Marzio, Alessandro, Gómez-Ramírez, Pilar, Barbar, Facundo, Lambertucci, SergioAgustín, García-Fernández, AntonioJuan, Martínez-López, Emma
Environmental science and pollution research international 2018 v.25 no.14 pp. 13906-13915
Cathartes aura, Coragyps atratus, Gymnogyps californianus, Vultur gryphus, adverse effects, anthropogenic activities, bioaccumulation, birds of prey, feathers, food chain, humans, mercury, pollutants, vultures, wildlife, Argentina
Mercury (Hg) is a global pollutant that bioaccumulates and biomagnifies in food chains and is associated with adverse effects in both humans and wildlife. We used feather samples from bird scavengers to evaluate Hg concentrations in two different areas of Northern Patagonia. Hg concentrations were analyzed in feathers obtained from turkey vultures (Cathartes aura), Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus), and southern crested caracaras (Caracara plancus) from the two areas of Northern Patagonia (Argentina): Bariloche and El Valle. Hg was detected in all the samples analyzed, but the concentrations can be considered low for the three species in both sampling areas. The mean concentration of Hg in Bariloche was 0.22 ± 0.16 mg/kg dry weight (d.w.) in black vulture, 0.13 ± 0.06 mg/kg d.w. in turkey vulture, and 0.13 ± 0.09 mg/kg d.w. in southern crested caracara; in El Valle, the mean concentration of Hg was 1.02 ± 0.89 mg/kg d.w. in black vulture, 0.53 ± 0.82 mg/kg d.w. in turkey vulture, and 0.54 ± 0.74 mg/kg d.w. in southern crested caracara. Hg concentrations in feathers were explained by the sampling area but not by the species. The concentrations of Hg contamination were comparable to those obtained in other studies of terrestrial raptors and aquatic bioindicator raptors. The species of the present study occur throughout much of North and South America. Thus, they may be appropriate bioindicators across the species’ range, which is particularly useful as a surrogate, especially in distribution areas shared with endangered scavengers such as the California condor (Gymnopsys californianus) and the Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus).