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Environ Monit Assess. 2010 Sep;168(1-4):629-44. doi: 10.1007/s10661-009-1139-7. Epub 2009 Sep 16.

Trace metal concentrations in tissues of two tinamou species in mining areas of Bolivia and their potential as environmental sentinels.

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Unidad de Manejo y Conservación de Fauna, Instituto de Ecología, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, Casilla, La Paz, Bolivia.

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  • Environ Monit Assess. 2010 Sep;168(1-4):703.


Mining has a long history in the Bolivian Andes and has left many tailing piles, from which trace metals may reach surface waters, soils, and biota. The potential of tinamous (Birds: Tinamidae) as sentinels has never been tested before, although their biological and ecological characteristics mean they could well be appropriate bioindicators. We captured 13 and nine individuals of the Ornate Tinamou (Nothoprocta ornata) from two polluted sites (P1 and P2) and 10 and five from control unpolluted sites (NP1 and NP2) and used, for comparative purposes, four specimens bred in captivity. We also captured six specimens of Darwin's Nothura (Nothura darwinii) from the polluted site, P2. We determined the concentration of As, Cd, Pb, and Sb in feathers, liver, and kidney and conducted histological analyses of liver and kidney. For the Ornate Tinamou, a site effect was found for all trace metals in all tissues, with the highest concentrations at polluted sites. At the P2 site, no differences between the two tinamou species were detected except in some cases where Darwin's Nothura shows near-double concentrations. In some cases, mean and/or individual values of trace metal concentrations reached toxicity levels at the polluted sites. Thesaurismosis in proximal convoluted renal tubules, probably related to Cd exposure, was observed in 30% of the samples from the P1 site. Significant correlations were observed between all tissues for all trace metals and also for all trace metals in each tissue. Because the species studied are ubiquitous and relatively abundant, we recommend monitoring programs based on feather analysis.

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