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Environ Pollut. 2005 Feb;133(3):481-7.

Mercury burdens in Chinese mitten crabs (Eriocheir sinensis) in three tributaries of southern San Francisco Bay, California, USA.

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US Geological Survey, 7801 Folsom Blvd, Suite 101, Sacramento, CA 95826, USA.


Chinese mitten crabs (Eriocheir sinensis), endemic to Asia, were first reported in the San Francisco Bay in 1992. They are now established in nearly all San Francisco Bay tributaries. These crabs accumulate more metals, such as mercury, than crustaceans living in the water column. Because their predators include fish, birds, mammals and humans, their mercury burdens have an exceptional potential to impact the ecosystem and public health. We sought to elucidate the potential threat of mitten crab mercury burdens in three adjacent streams in southern San Francisco Bay, one of which is known to be contaminated with mercury. Mitten crabs had hepatopancreas concentrations of total mercury and methylmercury that did not differ among streams. The maximum burden we measured was below the action level of 1 ppm recommended by the USEPA. Hepatopancreas concentrations of methylmercury declined with increasing crab size, suggesting a mechanism for mercury excretion and that predators might reduce mercury exposure if they select larger crabs. Because mercury may be heterogeneously distributed among tissues, estimation of the impacts of crab mercury burdens on the environment requires more data on the feeding preferences of predators.

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