Birds of prey play canary

Two characteristics of birds of prey, raptors, make them ideal for studying the potential environmental impact of heavy metal pollutants. First, individual birds have an extensive territory. Secondly, they are at the top of the food chain and so are exposed to heavy metals accumulated from animals and plants below them in the ecosystem. Now, researchers from the Universidad de Extremadura and from the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela in Spain have revealed that raptors are accumulating exposed to potentially lethal levels of lead and cadmium. Their data comes from a comparative study of the birds in Galicia and Extremadura and could in some sense be extrapolated to humans in terms of exposure to these metals.