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Mercurial sexuality

Exposure to mercury pollution could be causing some male birds to pair with other males, according to University of Florida researchers.

American white ibises from south Florida that consumed methylmercury, the most toxic and easily absorbed form of mercury found in the environment, were found more likely to engage in same-sex pairings. That phenomenon is unknown in wild populations of this species with no exposure to the pollutant.

The mercury in Florida was probably released by the burning of medical and municipal waste. The metal is converted into methylmercury by bacteria that are usually found in wetlands, which also tend to be home to many different bird species.

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