Mercury concentration and the absolute and relative sizes of the internal organs in cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo (L. 1758) from the breeding colony by the Vistula Lagoon (Poland)
This work analyses the effect of mercury on the condition of cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) from an extensive breeding colony in northern Poland, the largest in Europe. A total of 55 birds (44 adults and 11 immature) were obtained. Total mercury (Hg) concentrations were measured in the liver, kidneys, breast muscles, heart, gullet (oesophagus), stomach, intestines, trachea, lungs and eyeballs. The total body mass (TBM) and empty body mass (EBM) were measured, and the body parts taken for analysis were weighed. The relative mass of the tissues and the L/K index were expressed as percentages. Based on the L/K index the birds were divided into three condition classes: (A) very good, (B) good and (C) moderate. The mean TBM and EBM in these cormorants were 2286 and 2184 g respectively. The greatest contributions to EBM were from the breast muscles (~11%), liver (3.7%) and intestines (3.0%). The stomach, gullet, lungs, heart and kidneys made up from ~1.0–2.8% EBM, and the trachea and eyeballs < 0.4%. 31 of the 55 birds analysed were allocated to class B; mean Hg levels in them were the highest in the kidneys, liver, lungs and muscles (18.3, 9.78, 2.70, 1.86 µg/g dw respectively); they were ≤ 1 µg/g in the other tissues. In ecotoxicology it is assumed that a hepatic concentration > 16.7 µg Hg/g dw can lead to adverse effects in the reproduction of non-marine birds. In the light of the present results, the reproductive parameters of the cormorants from the colony in northern Poland, though mostly in good or very good condition, may be depressed as a result of elevated Hg levels in their body tissues.
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