Birds of prey that live in extensive geographical areas can accumulate high levels of heavy metals and metalloids in their bodies, as they are top of their food chain. Now researchers from the Universidad de Extremadura and from the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela can reveal that these wild animals can provide extremely useful data to detect and evaluate the toxicological effects of different inorganic elements in terrestrial ecosystems. This information could also be extrapolated to human beings.
“The comparative study between the two autonomous communities, Galicia and Extremadura, enables the difference in exposure and accumulation to different chemical elements in diurnal and nocturnal raptors to be established”, Marcos Pérez López explains to SINC. He is the principal researcher for the study and is part of a wider project that will incorporate data from other countries in the EU.
The research has been published recently in the journal entitled ‘Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety’, and establishes what type of bird tissue hyper-accumulates metallic elements such as cadmium (in this case the kidneys) would be the most suitable in biological monitoring studies. The research also establishes how the geographic area and the diurnal and nocturnal habits of the raptors can influence the elements quantified.
The scientists analysed the samples from different biological tissues, using the inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) technique to detect and quantify the metals after the samples had been digested in an acid mixture. The Centros de Recuperación de Vida Salvaje (Wild Life Rescue Centres) in Galicia and Extremadura donated the dead birds in which pollutants were detected.
Raptors are sentinels of pollution
The results show that the levels of Zinc (Zn) and Arsenic (As) in the liver appear to be low in general and would not in any way pose a risk to the species under consideration. On the other hand, “the levels of Lead (Pb) in certain diurnal raptors, and levels of Cadmium (Cd) in other nocturnal raptors could lead to the assumption that a ecotoxicological risk exists which would indicate that promoting the biological monitoring networks is useful” Pérez López states.
In order to prevent this situation and predict future environmental changes, these researchers point out the importance of the ecotoxicological studies, particularly because “the raptors’ biological characteristics make them useful “sentinels”, who act as local monitors suitable for evaluating pollution levels”. The wild birds, studied as environmental pollution bioindicators, give important information about the effects of metals on certain species.
Heavy metals in the environment
Metals are found throughout the world and their presence can be associated with natural events or are the result of anthropogenic activities. The impact of heavy metals on the environment can be a serious threat for the stability of the ecosystem and cause serious effects to the health of animals.
Two of the toxic elements studied in this research, Lead (Pb) and Cadmium (Cd) are released into the environment extensively by industry, road traffic and fossil fuel consumption.
Once metals come into contact with a bird, they tend to accumulate in different organs, such as the kidneys and the liver, and can lead to serious damage, even the death of the animal itself.
SINC Team | alfa
Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
28.03.2017 | Life Sciences
28.03.2017 | Information Technology
28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy