Molting feathers may help birds deal with environmental contaminants

Molting feathers may help birds deal with environmental contaminants
Molting feathers may help birds deal with environmental contaminants. Credit: Margaret Whitney

Mercury is a ubiquitous environmental contaminant that affects the health of birds and other wild animals. Two varieties of songbird—zebra finch and European starling—were found to shed mercury accumulation with their feathers in a recent study.

During a molt, both species quickly eliminated mercury from their blood and significantly reduced mercury concentrations in other tissues. This, coupled with a migration out of contaminated sites, may help birds deal with exposure to .

"It came as no surprise that feather molt accelerated the mercury elimination, but we did not expect the rates to differ so markedly from the non-songbird species that have been studied previously. Understanding species differences as well as how molt contributes to mercury elimination can improve ," said Margaret Whitney, co-author of the Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry study.


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More information: Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry , DOI: 10.1002/etc.3888/full
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Citation: Molting feathers may help birds deal with environmental contaminants (2017, July 20) retrieved 19 May 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2017-07-molting-feathers-birds-environmental-contaminants.html
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