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Environ Pollut. 2013 Nov;182:316-23. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2013.07.044. Epub 2013 Aug 23.

Familial differences in the effects of mercury on reproduction in zebra finches.

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Institute for Integrative Bird Behavior Studies, Biology Department, College of William and Mary, P.O. Box 8795, Williamsburg, VA 23187, USA. Electronic address:


Ecotoxicologists often implicitly assume that populations are homogenous entities in which all individuals have similar responses to a contaminant. However, genetically variable responses occur within populations. This variation can be visualized using dose-response curves of genetically related groups, similar to the way that evolutionary biologists construct reaction norms. We assessed the variation in reproductive success of full-sibling families of captive zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) experimentally exposed to methylmercury. We found significant variation among families in the effects of methylmercury on several reproductive parameters. This variation suggests that there may be strong responses to selection for resistant genotypes in contaminated areas. This has important implications for the evolution of tolerance as well as risk assessment and wildlife conservation efforts on sites with legacy contamination.


Environmental change; Evolutionary toxicology; Genetic variation; Methylmercury; Reaction norm

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