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Images: The Chicken and the Tern

WHOI biologists Sibel Karchner, Mark Hahn, and Diana Franks (front to back) found that small molecular differences in a critical protein in two kinds of birds made one species much more sensitive to an environmental contaminant, dioxin. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Domestic chickens, Gallus gallus, are very susceptible to dioxin poisoning. They possess a protein that binds the dioxin with a seven-times-greater affinity than the same protein in wild terns. (Photo by Dragan Trifunovic, Dreamstime.com)

Common terns (Sterna hirundo), like this one sitting on its nest, routinely eat wild fish that are contaminated with dioxin, but terns are less sensitive than domestic chickens to dioxin's toxic effects. (Photo courtesy of Ian Nisbet)