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Unravelling the effects of mercury exposure on the physiological status, senescence, and susceptibility to viral diseases in a long-lived seabird.

Mercury emission into the environment represents a globally relevant issue. The increased methylation rate of mercury due to global warming, and the projections suggesting that the amount of mercury in fish may double by 2050 jeopardize the future of top-predators worldwide. Now more than ever, we need to understand how exposure to mercury contamination affects life history traits of wildlife. I aim to investigate for the first time the consequences of mercury exposure on susceptibility to viral diseases. Specifically, the project aims to assess to which extent mercury exposure: i) causes physiological dysfunction and facilitates the manifestation of the disease; ii) accelerates telomere shortening during the viral disease; and iii) causes parental hormone displacement. The existing high levels of mercury and the annual viral outbreaks that cause the mortality of a large proportion of chicks of Magnificent frigatebirds at the study site (a small island in French Guiana) exploit an unprecedented opportunity to investigate a topic that remains largely unexplored. Not only will I combine the collection of longitudinal (within-individual variation over time) with experimental data, but I will benefit from hundreds of blood samples that I collected previously. The project has an extra value in terms of conservation because it will be carried out on a colony of frigatebirds that is considered one of the most important of South America.
Date:1 Nov 2020  →  Today
Disciplines:Animal ecology, Ecotoxicology