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Mercury poisoning threatens Arctic foxes

A study of different populations of foxes in the Arctic region has exposed that groups feeding on ocean prey have poorer health and a lower body weight than the ones living in inland zones.

A team of researchers led by Dr. Gabor Czirjak from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research was examining the reasons behind decreasing varieties of Arctic foxes on a little Russian island Medny in the North Pacific Ocean.

Scientists have developed a link in between shrinking numbers of Arctic foxes and their maritime diet, which has been found to contain high levels of hazardous mercury, BBC reports.

Mercury is usually moved throughout the food cycle, so the researchers examined which products were the primary source of food and gauged mercury levels in the main prey of Arctic foxes.

At one time, experts suggested this decrease was triggered by an infection, but studies fell short to discover a pathogen. Exactly what they did find was "significant rates of mercury" in hair samples taken from foxes and meals they ate.

To check their assumptions, the team compared samples from Russian foxes to those taken from their Icelandic cousins who live inland and feed entirely on non-marine prey. The test revealed a much lesser level of the contaminant.

Ecologists say mercury levels have actually been on the increase over the past 100 years, resulting in a ten-fold increase in toxin rates discovered in the region's top predators. The research raises some vital questions about the how mercury is gathering in the marine food cycle in the Arctic region.

Mercury levels there have for decades been associated with industrial pollution however current research from Nasa has suggested that decreasing levels of sea ice in the area could be helping to rise levels of the substance.

The accumulation of mercury in marine food cycle has triggered issue over the future of Arctic wildlife. Earlier this year, over 140 nations gathered for UN talks on a set of legitimately binding measures to suppress mercury contamination.


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