The sublethal toxicity of inorganic (HgCI 2) and organic (CH3HgCI) mercury chloride was studied in coturnix (Corurnix japonica) by feeding them mercuric compounds (CH3HgCI at concentrations of 0.125,0.5,2 and 8 ppm; HgCI2 at 0.5, 2, 8 and 32 ppm) in ad libitum diets from hatching to adulthood. Differences of response to the mercurials were compared on the basis of selected indicator enzymes and plasma chemistries. Comparisons of response to equivalent concentrations of the two mercurials and dose-response relationships were made at 1,3,5,7 and 9 weeks. Changes of activity were detected for brain acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and the plasma enzymes aspartate aminotransferase (ASA T), butyrylcholinesterase (BChE), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and ornithine carbamoyl transferase (OCT). Changes of ASA T, LDH and OCT were then quantified by probit analysis and the mercurials were compared through their median effective concentrations (EC50). This quantal procedure was based on the establishment of normal control values for each enzyme and then classifying mercury-treated outliers (more than + 2 SD) as respondents. The EC50 values at 9 weeks for ASA T, LDH and OCT, respectively, were 9, 3 and 63 ppm for HgCl 2, and 5, 1 and 4 ppm for CH3HgCI. These results provided the basis for two hazard indices that were calculated by dividing the EC50 into the oral LD50 and the 5-d dietary LC50. Mercury also had contradictory effects on gonadal maturation in both sexes.