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Adsorption of transition atoms on a (8,0) zigzag single-walled boron nitride (BN) nanotube has been investigated using density-functional theory methods. Main focuses have been placed on configurations corresponding to the located minima of the adsorbates, the corresponding binding energies, and the modified electronic properties of the BN nanotubes due to the adsorbates.We have systemically studied a series of metal adsorbates including all 3d transition-metal elements (Sc, Ti, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, and Zn) and two group-VIIIA transition-metal elements (Pd and Pt). We found that many transition-metal atoms can be chemically adsorbed on the outer surface of the BN nanotubes and that the adsorption process is typically exothermic. Upon adsorption, the binding energies of the Sc, Ti, Ni, Pd, and Pt atoms are relatively high (≥1.0 eV), while those of V, Fe, and Co atoms are modest, ranging from 0.62 to 0.92 eV. Mn atom forms a weak bond with the BN nanotube, while Zn atom cannot be chemically adsorbed on the BN nanotube. In most cases, the adsorption of transition-metal atoms can induce certain impurity states within the band gap of the pristine BN nanotube, thereby reducing the band gap. Most metal-adsorbed BN nanotubes exhibit nonzero magnetic moments, contributed largely by the transition-metal atoms.