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Mercury Might Be Reason For Arctic Gull Decline

Cara J

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The decline of endangered Arctic ivory gulls (Pagophila eburnea) in Canada might be due to a dramatic increase in mercury levels over the past 130 years, a recent study shows. Alexander Bond, a senior conservation scientist at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the U.K. and lead author, along with his team, examined specimens of ivory gulls dating back to the 1870s, taken from natural history museums from across the world. They sampled the birds by removing two or three of their breast feathers and checked them for methyl mercury — a toxic kind of mercury that’s acquired in the gulls’ diets. The researchers found mercury increased 45 times over the past 130 years. However, that wasn’t because of a change in the gulls’ diets, which comprise fish and carcasses that polar bears leave over after feeding, according to Brian Branfireun, an associate professor and research chair in biology at the University of Western Ontario and a co-author of the study. Instead, it suggested an increase in mercury pollution in the environment. According to Branfireun, ivory gulls — a species that’s at the top of the food chain — are seriously affected by mercury because of their [...]


Read more: http://wildlife.org/mercury-might-be-reason-for-arctic-gull-decline/

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