Title

Synchrotron radiation analysis in the study of pollution in the ring-billed gull (larus delawarensis): a novel application of the technique

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2013

Publication Title

X-Ray Spectrometry

Volume

42

Issue

6

First Page

437

Last Page

441

DOI

10.1002/xrs.2500

Abstract

Synchrotron radiation analysis is a powerful tool for identifying pollutants. Here, we explore the distribution of elements in the flight feathers of ring-billed gulls, Larus delawarensis, to identify potential pollutants and their distribution throughout the feather. Our analysis using Synchrotron Radiation Analysis and Environmental Scanning Electron Microscopy has identified a variety of metals that are integral parts of the feather structure including: calcium (Ca), strontium (Sr), zinc (Zn) and iron (Fe). The darker portions of the flight feather were enriched with Zn and Fe, which supports the suggestion that feather melanins are efficient ligands of some metals found in the environment, sequestering potentially harmful particles away from the body. However, trace lead (Pb) acquired from the regional pollution was detected only in females, and it was distributed across both the melanized and non-melanized portions of the feather suggesting that only some metals are efficiently sequestered by melanins. Overall this study highlights a potential method for identifying pollutants using bird feathers, which has broader implications on environmental sensing as well as avian and human health. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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