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Enhanced reproduction in mallards fed a low level of methylmercury: An apparent case of hormesis

Heinz, Gary H.; Hoffman, David J.; Klimstra, Jon D.; Stebbins, Katherine R.

Breeding pairs of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) were fed a control diet or a diet containing 0.5 µg/g mercury (Hg) in the form of methylmercury chloride. There were no effects of Hg on adult weights and no overt signs of Hg poisoning in adults. The Hg‐containing diet had no effect on fertility of eggs, but hatching success of eggs was significantly higher for females fed 0.5 µg/g Hg (71.8%) than for controls (57.5%). Survival of ducklings through 6 d of age was the same (97.8%) for controls and mallards fed 0.5 µg/g mercury. However, the mean number of ducklings produced per female was significantly higher for the pairs fed 0.5 µg/g Hg (21.4) than for controls (16.8). Although mercury in the parents' diet had no effect on mean duckling weights at hatching, ducklings from parents fed 0.5 µg/g Hg weighed significantly more (mean = 87.2 g) at 6 d of age than did control ducklings (81.0 g). The mean concentration of Hg in eggs laid by parents fed 0.5 µg/g mercury was 0.81 µg/g on a wet‐weight basis. At this time, one cannot rule out the possibility that low concentrations of Hg in eggs may be beneficial, and this possibility should be considered when setting regulatory thresholds for methylmercury. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:650–653.

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