Pollution Turns Birds Gay, Study Finds
"We knew mercury could depress their testosterone levels," University of Florida researcher Peter Frederick told the Daily Mail. "But we didn't expect this. In the worst-case scenario, the production of young would fall by 50 percent."
Frederick and his team found that even small amounts of mercury tended to turn the birds homosexual, well, insofar as male birds were found to court and build nests together.
While Frederick specifies that there is no indication of whether or not mercury would have a similar effect on mammals, sexual side effects from environmental pollutants are a serious threat to many animal populations. In March, a study showed how atrazine, a common pesticide, could "castrate" male frogs, and other endocrine disrupters are suspected of interfering with the reproductive lives of a range of fish and birds.
For humans, the biggest endocrine disrupter under investigation is bisphenol A, a ubiquitous plastic component that many fear is linked to a range of reproductive issues, as well as neurological and cancer-related problems.
Frederick had encouraging words when it came to mercury, however, saying that some small measures could dramatically release the levels of mercury seeping into the ecosystem.
"Most mercury sources are local rather than global," he told Nature News. "Local enough that we can do something about it, such as installing scrubbers on smoke stacks. Ecosystems respond very quickly to regulatory action when it comes to mercury."
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