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High concentrations of mercury from past mining activities have accumulated in the food chain of fish-eating birds nesting along the mid to lower Carson River. Activities of nine plasma and tissue enzymes, and concentrations of other plasma and tissue constituents were measured for black-crowned night-heron, Nycticorax nycticorax, (BCNH) and snowy egret, Egretta thula, (SE) nestlings from two high mercury sites and one low mercury site. Geometric mean blood Hg concentrations for BCNHs at the high mercury sites were 2.6 and 2.8 ppm (ww) and 0.6 ppm at the low mercury site. Blood concentrations for SEs were 3.6 and 1.9 ppm at the high mercury sites and 0.7 ppm at the low mercury site. In BCNHs plasma glutathione peroxidase (GSH peroxidase) activity was lower in both high mercury sites relative to the low mercury site. Butyryl cholinesterase (BuChe), ALT, glutathione reductase (GSSG-reductase) and LDH-L activities were lower in one high mercury site. In SEs significant differences were lower BuChe and LDH-L, but elevated GGT activities. Evidence of renal stress in both species at high mercury sites included increased plasma uric acid, blood urea nitrogen, and creatinine concentrations as well as oxidative stress in the kidney tissue itself where oxidized glutathione increased. A number of the mercury site-related effects, including decreased plasma GSH-peroxidase and hepatic G-6-PDH activities, higher GSSG-reductase activity, and lower hepatic concentrations of reduced thiols have been reported in methylmercury feeding studies with great egrets and mallards. These findings suggest the utility of herons and egrets for monitoring mercury sites.
Additional Publication Details
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