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An international group of 32 scientists has critically reviewed the scientific literature on exposure and effects of environmental contaminants in wild mammals. Although the absolute number of toxicological studies in domesticated and wild mammals eclipses that for birds, a detailed examination of scientific publications and databases reveal that information for 'wild' birds is actually greater than that for 'wild' mammals. Of the various taxa of mammals, ecotoxicological data is most noticeably lacking for marsupials and monotremes. In contrast, rodents (comprising 43% of all mammal species) have been studied extensively, despite evidence of their tolerance to some organochlorine compounds, rodenticides, and even radionuclides. Mammalian species at greatest risk of exposure include those that consume a high percentage of their body weight on a daily basis (e.g., shrews, moles and bats). Aquatic mammals tend to bioaccumulate tremendous burdens of lipophilic contaminants, although storage in their fat depots may actually limit toxicity. Carnivores appear to be more sensitive to adverse effects of environmental contaminants than herbivores. Remarkably few of the thousands of compounds manufactured worldwide have been toxicologically evaluated in wild mammals, and concentrations of even fewer have been monitored in tissues. Overarching research needs include: development of new exposure/effects models and better methods for estimation of species sensitivities; generation of comparative data on contaminant bioavailability, sublethal responses and detoxication mechanisms; enhanced understanding of pesticide, industrial contaminant and metal interactions; identification of endocrine disruptive contaminants and their overall ecological significance; and finally, estimating the relative contribution of environmental contamination as a factor affecting wild mammal populations.
Additional Publication Details
Ecotoxicology of wild mammals
Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, annual meeting abstract book