The ideal study of the effects of methylmercury on the reproductive success of a species of bird would be one in which eggs contained mercury concentrations ranging from controls to very heavily contaminated, all at the same site. Such a study cannot be realized at a mercury contaminated area or under laboratory conditions, but could be achieved by introducing methylmercury into breeding females and allowing them to deposit mercury in their eggs. Female mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) were intraperitoneally injected with solutions of methylmercury chloride dissolved in corn oil, propylene glycol, dimethyl sulfoxide, mineral oil, Olestra, Crisco, lard, hard paraffin, and a combination of hard and soft paraffin. In some cases, egg laying was delayed, either due to the solvent itself (in the case of Olestra, Crisco, and lard) or to the highest concentration of methylmercury chloride (500 μg/g) in some of the solvents. Mercury in eggs ranged from a control level (< 0.1 μg/g) to approximately 14 μg/g on a wet weight basis, which more than covers the range of concentrations reported in wild bird eggs. Mercury concentrations in a series of eggs from the same female declined mostly due to excretion of mercury in prior eggs and not because of the length of time since the injection. Intraperitoneal injections hold promise in field studies where one would like to study the reproductive effects of a wide range of methylmercury levels in the eggs of a wild bird and under the natural conditions that exist in the field.
Additional publication details
Intraperitoneal injections as a possible means of generating varied levels of methylmercury in the eggs of birds in field studies