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Geographic and temporal patterns of variation in total mercury concentrations in blood of harlequin ducks and blue mussels from Alaska

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Abstract

We compared total mercury (Hg) concentrations in whole blood of harlequin ducks (Histrionicus histrionicus) sampled within and among two geographically distinct locations and across three years in southwest Alaska. Blue mussels were collected to assess correlation between Hg concentrations in locally available forage and birds. Mercury concentrations in harlequin duck blood were significantly higher at Unalaska Island (0.31 ± 0.19 mean ± SD, μg/g blood) than Kodiak Island (0.04 ± 0.02 mean ± SD, μg/g blood). We found no evidence for annual variation in blood Hg concentration between years at Unalaska Island. However, blood Hg concentration did vary among specific sampling locations (i.e., bays) at Unalaska Island. Findings from this study demonstrate harlequin ducks are exposed to environmental sources of Hg, and whole blood Hg concentrations are associated with their local food source.

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Savoy, L., Flint, P., Zwiefelhofer, D., Brant, H., Perkins, C., Taylor, R., … Schamber, J. (2017). Geographic and temporal patterns of variation in total mercury concentrations in blood of harlequin ducks and blue mussels from Alaska. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 117(1–2), 178–183. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2017.01.084

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