Assessment of the Ecotoxic Risk of Methylmercury Exposure in Mink (Mustela vison) Inhabiting Northern Québec
Chronic exposure in wildlife is subjected to several ecological, biological and behavioral factors, whose cumulative effects would reduce rather than increase the mercury (Hg) burden. Since clinical studies using captive animals cannot replicate these natural factors, they tend to overestimate the risk. Therefore, in attempting to evaluate the risk of contaminants to wildlife, it is essential to integrate results of field and laboratory studies. The present paper briefly reviews the exposure results obtained from a clinical in vitro study using domesticated mink together with the main conclusions on mortality, birth and fertility in order to determine the lowest observable effect level (LOEL) from the laboratory study. The paper then reports known field Hg concentrations observed in wild mink from various regions of North America compared to their counterparts in northern Québec in order to establish their natural variability regarding their exposure to methylmercury (MeHg) in this northern environment. Following that, it summarizes the numerous bio-ecological characteristics of wild mink that have an influence on the behavior and natural ability of the species as related to its feeding habits. This then permits us to evaluate the risk to wild mink in northern Québec considering their bio-ecological situation and their exposure levels measured in the wild as opposed to those observed in subjects exposed to known diets in the laboratory.
KeywordsMeHg Exposure Mustela Vison Precambrian Shield Methylmercury Exposure Mink Population
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