Mercury and Selenium Concentrations in Marine Biota

paper3Published on 03. September 2013

Contrasting Food Web Factor and Body Size Relationships with Hg and Se Concentrations in Marine Biota

Karimi R, Frisk M, Fisher NS


Marine fish and shellfish are primary sources of human exposure to mercury, a potentially toxic metal, and selenium, an essential element that may protect against mercury bioaccumulation and toxicity. Yet we lack a thorough understanding of Hg and Se patterns in common marine taxa, particularly those that are commercially important, and how food web and body size factors differ in their influence on Hg and Se patterns. We compared Hg and Se content among marine fish and invertebrate taxa collected from Long Island, NY, and examined associations between Hg, Se, body length, trophic level (measured by δ15N) and degree of pelagic feeding (measured by δ13C). Finfish, particularly shark, had high Hg content whereas bivalves generally had high Se content. Both taxonomic differences and variability were larger for Hg than Se, and Hg content explained most of the variation in Hg:Se molar ratios among taxa. Finally, Hg was more strongly associated with length and trophic level across taxa than Se, consistent with a greater degree of Hg bioaccumulation in the body over time, and biomagnification through the food web, respectively. Overall, our findings indicate distinct taxonomic and ecological Hg and Se patterns in commercially important marine biota, and these patterns have nutritional and toxicological implications for seafood-consuming wildlife and humans.

 PLoS ONE 8(9): e74695. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074695



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