Dr. Peter Frederick at the University of Florida has discovered that not only does mercury pollution lower testosterone levels in white ibises (pictured above), it also has resulted in the male birds mating with each other. His findings are published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.
Dr. Frederick fed the birds a diet with varying concentrations of mercury (0.05-0.3 ppm wet weight) for three years. What he found was that 55% of the males in the highest dose group nested with other males and egg productivity dropped to 30%.
These findings demonstrate the profound impact the environment can have on physiology. Researchers who study these interactions are called Ecophysiologists. It is such a fast-growing area of research in our ever-changing world, that a conference was recently held in Westminster, CO highlighting current research in this area. The meeting, sponsored by The American Physiological Society, was called Global Change and Global Science: Comparative Physiology in a Changing World.
Photo Credit: Thomas J. Dunkerton, Titusville, Fla.