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Environ Toxicol Chem. 2015 Feb;34(2):303-6. doi: 10.1002/etc.2796. Epub 2015 Jan 16.

Hg-contaminated terrestrial spiders pose a potential risk to songbirds at Caddo Lake (Texas/Louisiana, USA).

Author information

1
Biology Department, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas, USA.

Abstract

Methylmercury (MeHg) is an environmental contaminant that can have adverse effects on wildlife. Because MeHg is produced by bacteria in aquatic ecosystems, studies of MeHg contamination of food webs historically have focused on aquatic organisms. However, recent studies have shown that terrestrial organisms such as songbirds can be contaminated with MeHg by feeding on MeHg-contaminated spiders. In the present study, the authors examined the risk that MeHg-contaminated terrestrial long-jawed orb weaver spiders (Tetragnatha sp.) pose to songbirds at Caddo Lake (Texas/Louisiana, USA). Methylmercury concentrations in spiders were significantly different in river, wetland, and open-water habitats. The authors calculated spider-based wildlife values (the minimum spider MeHg concentrations causing physiologically significant doses in consumers) to assess exposure risks for arachnivorous birds. Methylmercury concentrations in spiders exceeded wildlife values for Carolina chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) nestlings, with the highest risk in the river habitat. The present study indicates that MeHg concentrations in terrestrial spiders vary with habitat and can pose a threat to small-bodied nestling birds that consume large amounts of spiders at Caddo Lake. This MeHg threat to songbirds may not be unique to Caddo Lake and may extend throughout the southeastern United States.

KEYWORDS:

Caddo Lake; Methylmercury; Songbird; Terrestrial spider

PMID:
25378235
DOI:
10.1002/etc.2796
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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