Forty-two mute swans (Cygnus olor ) were collected from unpolluted portions of central Chesapeake Bay in spring 1995. Their intestinal digesta were analyzed for 13 metals (Al, B, Ba, Cd, Cu, Fe, Mg, Mn, Ni, Pb, Sr, V, Zn) and for acid-insoluble ash, a marker of sediment. Because metal concentrations in digesta depend on recent exposure, they are appropriate for evaluating local contamination. Swan livers and sediment samples also were analyzed for the same metals. Group method of data handling demonstrated that the digesta Al was the best predictor of digesta Pb, and that adding concentrations of other metals as predictors did not improve the accuracy of the estimates of Pb concentrations from Al concentrations. The r2 of the equation relating the log of digesta Pb to the log of digesta Al was 0.86, whereas the r2 of the equation relating the log of digesta Pb to the log of digesta acid-insoluble ash was 0.50. Sediment ingestion was critical in determining exposure to Pb, as well as to some of the other metals, and should be considered in ecotoxicological risk assessments of waterfowl. The mean of 7.4% acid-insoluble ash in the digesta corresponded to an estimated 3.2% sediment in the diet. The Pb concentrations in the digesta were 2-3 times the concentration that would have been predicted from sediment Pb concentrations; presumably the swans had ingested clays high in Pb that had settled on the vegetation. The swans were not thought to have been exposed to high Cu concentrations but they had hepatic Cu concentrations that would be considered very high if found in other species.
Additional publication details
Relation of lead exposure to sediment ingestion in mute swans on the Chesapeake Bay, USA