Cadmium is known to be both extremely toxic and ubiquitous in natural environments. It occurs in almost all soils, surface waters and plants, and it is readily mobilized by human activities such as mining. As a result, cadmium has been named as a potential health threat to wildlife species; however, because it exists most commonly in the environment as a trace constituent, reported incidences of cadmium toxicity are rare. Here we have measured trace metals in the food web and tissues of white-tailed ptarmigan (Lagopus leucurus) in Colorado. Our results suggest that cadmium toxicity may be more common among natural populations of vertebrates than has been appreciated to date and that cadmium toxicity may often go undetected or unrecognized. In addition, our research shows that ingestion of even trace quantities of cadmium can influence not only the physiology and health of individual organisms, but also the demographics and the distribution of species.
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Cadmium toxicity among wildlife in the Colorado Rocky Mountains