Methylmercury effects on birds: A review, meta-analysis, and development of toxicity reference values for injury assessment based on tissue residues and diet

Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
By: , and 

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Abstract

Birds are used as bioindicators of environmental mercury (Hg) contamination, and toxicity reference values are needed for injury assessments. We conducted a comprehensive review, summarized data from 168 studies, performed a series of Bayesian hierarchical meta-analyses, and developed new toxicity reference values for the effects of methylmercury (MeHg) on birds using a benchmark dose analysis framework. Lethal and sublethal effects of MeHg on birds were categorized into nine biologically relevant endpoint categories and three age classes. Effective Hg concentrations where there was a 10% reduction (EC10) in the production of juvenile offspring (0.55 µg/g wet wt adult blood-equivalent Hg concentrations, 80% credible interval: [0.33, 0.85]), histology endpoints (0.49 [0.15, 0.96] and 0.61 [0.09, 2.48]), and biochemical markers (0.77 [<0.25, 2.12] and 0.57 [0.35, 0.92]) were substantially lower than those for survival (2.97 [2.10, 4.73] and 5.24 [3.30, 9.55]) and behavior (6.23 [1.84, >13.42] and 3.11 [2.10, 4.64]) of juveniles and adults, respectively. Within the egg age class, survival was the most sensitive endpoint (EC10 = 2.02 µg/g wet wt adult blood-equivalent Hg concentrations [1.39, 2.94] or 1.17 µg/g fresh wet wt egg-equivalent Hg concentrations [0.80, 1.70]). Body morphology was not particularly sensitive to Hg. We developed toxicity reference values using a combined survival and reproduction endpoints category for juveniles, because juveniles were more sensitive to Hg toxicity than eggs or adults. Adult blood-equivalent Hg concentrations (µg/g wet wt) and egg-equivalent Hg concentrations (µg/g fresh wet wt) caused low injury to birds (EC1) at 0.09 [0.04, 0.17] and 0.04 [0.01, 0.08], moderate injury (EC5) at 0.6 [0.37, 0.84] and 0.3 [0.17, 0.44], high injury (EC10) at 1.3 [0.94, 1.89] and 0.7 [0.49, 1.02], and severe injury (EC20) at 3.2 [2.24, 4.78] and 1.8 [1.28, 2.79], respectively. Maternal dietary Hg (µg/g dry wt) caused low injury to juveniles at 0.16 [0.05, 0.38], moderate injury at 0.6 [0.29, 1.03], high injury at 1.1 [0.63, 1.87], and severe injury at 2.4 [1.42, 4.13]. We found few substantial differences in Hg toxicity among avian taxonomic orders, including for controlled laboratory studies that injected Hg into eggs. Our results can be used to quantify injury to birds caused by Hg pollution. 

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Methylmercury effects on birds: A review, meta-analysis, and development of toxicity reference values for injury assessment based on tissue residues and diet
Series title Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
DOI 10.1002/etc.5858
Edition Online First
Year Published 2024
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
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