We found that mercury potentiated the toxicity and biochemical effects of parathion. Male Coturnix quail (Coturnix coturnix japonica) were fed a sublethal concentration of morsodren (4 ppm as methyl mercury) for 18 weeks. This resulted in an accumulation of 21.0 ppm of mercury in the liver and 8.4 ppm in the carcass. Birds fed clean feed and those fed morsodren-treated feed were orally dosed with 2, 4, 6, 8,and 10 mg/kg parathion, and their 48-h survival times compared. The computed LD50 was 5.86mg/kg in birds not fed morsodren and 4.24 in those fed the heavy metal. When challenged with a sublethal, oral dose of parathion (1.0 mg/kg), morsodren-fed birds exhibited significantly greater inhibition of plasma and brain cholinesterase activity than controls dosed with parathion. Brain cholinesterase activity was inhibited 41% in morsodren-fed birds and 26in clean-fed birds dosed with parathion, which suggested that the increase in parathion toxicity in the presence of morsodren was directly related to the inhibitation of brain cholinesterase.