The Strange effect of mercury to wetland birds, such as White Ibis, is that they turn homosexual. It is because of the higher doses resulting in males being more likely to pair with males.
Wetland habitats, like the Florida Everglades, are home to white ibises. They are vulnerable to mercury contamination. Bacteria that live in the thick, oxygen-free sludge chemically alter the mercury, and turning it into its most toxic form, which is methylated mercury.
This chemical can act as a sort of biological impostor that mimic hormones that act as the body’s natural chemical signals. Some of these are involved in reproductive behavior.Bacteria that live in the thick, oxygen-free sludge chemically alter the mercury, and turning it into its most toxic form, which is methylated mercury. This chemical can act as a sort of biological impostor that mimic hormones that act as the body’s natural chemical signals. Some of these are involved in reproductive behavior.
Scientists in Florida and Sri Lanka studied the effect of mercury in the birds’ diet. Their goal is to find out why it reduced the ibises’ breeding.
The study shows that wetland birds are particularly badly affected by it. Although the scientists already knew that eating mercury-contaminated food could affect an animal’s development, they were surprised by the strange results of this experiment.
Dr. Peter Frederick from the University of Florida explained, “We knew mercury could depress their testosterone (male sex hormone) levels, but we didn’t expect this kind of result.” He added that the study also shows that mercury could dramatically reduce the breeding rates of birds and possibly of other wildlife.
Dr. Frederick’s team gave white ibises food pellets that contained concentrations of mercury equivalent to those measured in the shrimp and crayfish that make up the birds’ wetland diet. The higher the dose of mercury in their food pellets, the more likely a male bird was to pair with another male.
For the fact that mercury is known to disrupt hormonal signaling, it could have a direct impact on the sexual behavior. Furthermore, they have observed that males with higher mercury doses performed far fewer courtship displays; as a result, they were more likely to be ignored by females.