Variation in blood mercury concentrations in brown skuas (Stercorarius antarcticus) is related to trophic ecology but not breeding success or adult body condition
Mercury is a pervasive environmental contaminant that can negatively impact seabirds. Here, we measure total mercury (THg) concentrations in red blood cells (RBCs) from breeding brown skuas (Stercorarius antarcticus) (n = 49) at Esperanza/Hope Bay, Antarctic Peninsula. The aims of this study were to: (i) analyse RBCs THg concentrations in relation to sex, year and stable isotope values of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N); and (ii) examine correlations between THg, body condition and breeding success. RBC THg concentrations were positively correlated with δ15N, which is a proxy of trophic position, and hence likely reflects the biomagnification process. Levels of Hg contamination differed between our study years, which is likely related to changes in diet and distribution. RBC THg concentrations were not related to body condition or breeding success, suggesting that Hg contamination is currently not a major conservation concern for this population.
Authors: Ibañez, A.E., Mills, William F. ORCID record for William F. Mills, Bustamante, P., McGill, R.A.R., Morales, L.M., Palacio, F.X., Torres, D.S., Haidr, N.S., Mariano-Jelicich, R., Phillips, Richard A., Montalti, D.