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The poisonous fog of the blame for the dangerously high mercury levels in mountain lion

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A surprising culprit has been fingered, with an extremely high mercury levels are found in the mountain lions living in the vicinity of the coast of California — the navy is missing.

According to research published this week in Scientific Reports, the mountain lions are living in the so-called “fog belt” of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and have three times the amount of mercury in their systems that are out of the fog zone.

The study, which was conducted by environmental toxicologist Peter Weiss-Penzias, collected and analyzed the fur and whisker samples, 94 are coastal, and mountain lions, and 18 in noncoastal lions. The scientists found that mercury concentrations in the coastal samples, on average, about 1,500 parts-per-billion (ppb), compared to about 500 ppb, in the noncoastal group. In addition, at least one lion had mercury levels are known to be toxic to species such as mink and otter, while the other two had a “sub-lethal” levels, reducing the fertility and reproductive success.

“Lichens have no roots, so that, in the presence of elevated methylmercury in the lichen, has to come from the atmosphere,” said Weiss-Penzias, in a statement. “Mercury is becoming increasingly concentrated in organisms higher up the food chain.”

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Mountain lions in the mountains of Montana, the United States of america
(Getty Images)

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Elevated mercury levels pose an additional threat to the predator, which is already struggling with habitat loss and other hazards of the human being, according to the researchers.

“This is the mercury levels can compound the effects of trying to make it in an environment, such as in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where there is a lot of human influence, but we don’t really know,” said senior author Chris Wilmers, a professor of environmental and a director of the Puma Project. Levels are higher in 100 years from now, when the Earth, mercury and the budget is higher than this, because of all the coal, we are pumping into the atmosphere.”

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In a press release on the study, the scientists note that the very high levels of methylmercury can lead to neurological damage, including memory loss and diminished motor skills, and coordination.

“We have to protect the top predators in the area,” said Weiss-Penzias. “They are a keystone species. They shall carry out the services. If you have a one-track mind, it has a cascading effect through the system.”

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