Histologic, Neurologic, and Immunologic Effects of Methylmercury in Captive Great Egrets

  • Spalding M
  • Frederick P
  • McGill H
 et al. 
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Captive great egret (Ardea albus) nestlings were maintained as controls or were dosed with methylmercury chloride at low (0.5), and high doses (5 mg/kg, wet weight) in fish. Low dosed birds were given methylmercury at concentrations comparable to current exposure of wild birds in the Everglades (Florida, USA). When compared with controls, low dosed birds had lower packed cell volumes, dingy feathers, increased lymphocytic cuffing in a skin test, increased bone marrow cellularity, decreased bursal wall thickness, decreased thymic lobule size, fewer lymphoid aggregates in lung, increased perivascular edema in lung, and decreased phagocytized carbon in lung. High dosed birds became severely ataxic and had severe hematologic, neurologic, and histologic changes. The most severe lesions were in immune and nervous system tissues. By comparing responses in captive and wild birds, we found that sublethal effects of mercury were detected at lower levels in captive than in wild birds, probably due to the reduced sou...

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  • Marilyn G. Spalding

  • Peter C. Frederick

  • Heather C. McGill

  • Shannon N. Bouton

  • Lauren J. Richey

  • Isabella M. Schumacher

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