Editor's Spotlight

Mercury contamination in bats from the central United States

Mercury (Hg) is a highly toxic metal that has detrimental effects on wildlife. The authors surveyed Hg concentrations in 10 species of bats collected at wind farms in the central United States and found contamination in all species. Mercury concentration in fur was highly variable both within and between species (range 1.08–10.52 μg/g). Despite the distance between sites (up to 1200 km), only 2 of the 5 species sampled at multiple locations had fur Hg concentrations that differed between sites. Mercury concentrations observed in the present study all fell within the previously reported ranges for bats collected from the northeastern United States and Canada, although many of the bats sampled had lower maximum Hg concentrations. Juvenile bats had lower concentrations of Hg in fur compared with adult bats, and the authors found no significant effect of sex on Hg concentrations in fur. For a subset of 2 species, the authors also measured Hg concentration in muscle tissue; concentrations were much higher in fur than in muscle, and Hg concentrations in the 2 tissue types were weakly correlated. Abundant wind farms and ongoing postconstruction fatality surveys offer an underutilized opportunity to obtain tissue samples that can be used to assess Hg contamination in bats.

 

12 December 2017