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ABSTRACT: Feathers provide a potentially useful biomonitoring option in studies regarding pollution exposure in avian species. However, they must be used with care because the complex, fine structure is highly prone to accumulating surface contamination. This may therefore give a misleading indication of pollutant intake in the animal. Here, data are presented for 4 large scavenging raptor species collected in Spain, and analyses are undertaken on feather barbs and rachis for both Pb and Al concentrations. Aluminium levels are used as a marker of surface contamination by inorganic particulate material. Despite using a thorough washing technique, feather barbs showed significantly higher levels of Pb than did the rachis for all 4 species studied. We also observed a significant correlation (r=0.782, p<0.001) between Al and Pb levels in the barbs, whilst rachis Al levels were below our detection limit in all samples analysed. Results indicate that the rachis would provide more representative data as regards Pb (or other heavy metal) uptake and tissue deposition within bird tissues during the period of feather growth. As such, data would be more toxicologically relevant.
Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety 01/2011; 74(4):911-7. · 2.20 Impact Factor