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Can J Fish Aquat Sci. 2017 Jul;74(7):1009-1015. doi: 10.1139/cjfas-2016-0396. Epub 2016 Nov 30.

Mercury bioaccumulation increases with latitude in a coastal marine fish (Atlantic silverside, Menidia menidia).

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Department of Marine Sciences, University of Connecticut, 1080 Shennecossett Road, Groton CT, 06340.
University of Oregon, 1266 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403.
Harvard Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, 58 Oxford Street, Cambridge MA 02138.
Department of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover NH, 03755.
School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, Dana Hall, Stony Brook NY 11794-5000.


Human exposure to the neurotoxic methylmercury (MeHg) occurs primarily via the consumption of marine fish, but the processes underlying large-scale spatial variations in fish MeHg concentrations [MeHg], which influence human exposure, are not sufficiently understood. We used the Atlantic silverside (Menidia menidia), an extensively studied model species and important forage fish, to examine latitudinal patterns in total Hg [Hg] and [MeHg]. Both [Hg] and [MeHg] significantly increased with latitude (0.014 and 0.048 μg MeHg g-1 dw per degree of latitude in juveniles and adults, respectively). Four known latitudinal trends in silverside traits help explain these patterns: latitudinal increase in MeHg assimilation efficiency, latitudinal decrease in MeHg efflux, latitudinal increase in weight loss due to longer and more severe winters, and latitudinal increase in food consumption as an adaptation to decreasing length of the growing season. Given the absence of a latitudinal pattern in particulate MeHg, a diet proxy for zooplanktivorous fish, we conclude that large-scale spatial variation in growth is the primary control of Hg bioaccumulation in this and potentially other fish species.


bioaccumulation; condition; growth; growth dilution hypothesis; methylmercury

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