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Environ Pollut. 2001;111(2):217-31.

Factors controlling the bioaccumulation of mercury and methylmercury by the estuarine amphipod Leptocheirus plumulosus.

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  • 1Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, Center for Environmental Science, University of Maryland, PO Box 38, Solomons, MD 20688, USA.


The bioaccumulation of inorganic mercury (HgI) and monomethylmercury (MMHg) by benthic organisms and subsequent trophic transfer couples the benthic and pelagic realms of aquatic systems and provides a mechanism for transfer of sedimentary contaminants to aquatic food chains. Experiments were performed to investigate the bioavailability and bioaccumulation of particle-associated HgI and MMHg by the estuarine amphipod Leptocheirus plumulosus to further understand the controls on bioaccumulation by benthic organisms. HgI and MMHg are particle reactive and have a strong affinity for organic matter, a potential food source for amphipods. Microcosm laboratory experiments were performed to determine the effects of organic matter on Hg bioaccumulation and to determine the major route of Hg uptake (i.e. sediment ingestion, uptake from water/porewater, or uptake from 'food'). Amphipods living in organic-rich sediment spiked with Hg accumulated less Hg than those living in sediments with a lower organic matter content. Feeding had a significant impact on the amount of HgI and MMHg accumulated. Similarly, amphipods living in water with little organic matter accumulated more Hg than those living in water with a greater percentage of organic matter. MMHg was more readily available for uptake than HgI. Experimental results, coupled with results from a bioaccumulation model, suggest that accumulation of HgI and MMHg from sediment cannot be accurately predicted based solely on the total Hg, or even the MMHg, concentration of the sediment, and sediment-based bioaccumulation factors. All routes of exposure need to be considered in determining the accumulation of HgI and MMHg from sediment to benthic invertebrates.

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