Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Conservation: Heavy metal history

Environ. Sci. Technol. doi:10.1021/es903176w (2010)


Endangered California condors (Gymnogyps californianus; pictured) are heavily affected by lead poisoning, but current biannual testing detects only a fraction of their exposure.

Myra Finkelstein at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and her colleagues report that analysis of sequential segments of condor feathers can provide a history of lead exposure over the 2–4 months of feather growth.

By measuring lead concentration and isotope composition in feather and blood samples, the researchers identified lead-exposure events that would have been missed by blood monitoring alone. Their technique, they say, may also be applicable to other bird species.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Conservation: Heavy metal history. Nature 464, 329 (2010).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing