John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Acute embryotoxic effects but no long term reproductive effects of in ovo methylmercury exposure in zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata)

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Mercury bioaccumulates in terrestrial ecosystems as methylmercury (MeHg), yet little is known about its effects on terrestrial organisms including songbirds. Here we used a model songbird species, the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata), to assess short‐term embryotoxic effects of in ovo MeHg exposure on hatching success and post‐hatching growth and nestling survival, as well as longer‐term effects on mating behaviour and reproduction. Egg treatment groups included: a low MeHg dose of 0.2 µg Hg g−1 egg (n = 36), a high MeHg dose of 3.2 µg Hg g−1 egg (n = 49), and a control (n = 34). Doses were dissolved in nanopure filtered water and injected into the albumen on the day eggs first showed signs of viability (3 days incubation). in ovo exposure to MeHg significantly reduced hatching success (53% in the high MeHg dose group vs. 94% in vehicle controls). However, among hatched chicks no effect of MeHg on growth, hematological variables, or nestling survival were detected. While our in ovo injection method resulted in a dose‐dependent pattern of MeHg concentrations in blood of surviving chicks at 15 and 30 days post hatching, there was evidence of rapid excretion of MeHg with nestling age during that growth period. At reproductive maturity (90 days of age) we found no long‐term effects of in ovo exposure to MeHg on female mating behaviour, reproductive effort (egg or clutch size) or growth and survivorship of offspring. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved

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