Aquatic fish-eating birds can demethylate methylmercury in their livers. In this study, we determined whether a previously documented male bias in mercury concentration in double-crested cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) was due entirely to the depuration of mercury into eggs or might also in part be related to sex differences in methylmercury demethylation or biliary excretion capability in the liver. We found egg depuration accounted for less than a fifth of the mercury concentration difference between males and females, hence not entirely explaining the sex difference. Females had a significantly steeper slope for the negative relationship between percent methylmercury (i.e., percentage of total mercury that is methylmercury) and total mercury concentration than did males. This suggests that females have a greater capacity to demethylate methylmercury, which might be reducing the amount of methylmercury available for depuration to eggs. We also found a significant negative relationship between methylmercury concentration and liver mass for females only; thus females might also have a greater capability to excrete methylmercury compared to males. Therefore, we conclude that the male bias in mercury concentration might also result from females having a greater capability to excrete mercury compared to males.

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Journal Environmental Science and Technology
Robinson, S.A. (Stacey A.), Forbes, M, Hebert, C.E. (Craig E.), & Scheuhammer, A.M. (Anton M.). (2011). Evidence for sex differences in mercury dynamics in double-crested cormorants. Environmental Science and Technology, 45(4), 1213–1218. doi:10.1021/es1021872