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Sci Total Environ. 2019 May 20;666:828-838. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.02.295. Epub 2019 Feb 20.

Mercury bioaccumulation in tilefish from the northeastern Gulf of Mexico 2 years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill: Insights from Hg, C, N and S stable isotopes.

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National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Florida State University, 1800 East Paul Dirac Drive, Tallahassee, FL 32310, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Science, Florida State University, 117 N. Woodward Ave, Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA.
Coastal and Marine Laboratory, Florida State University, 3618 Coastal Highway 98, St. Teresa, FL 32358-2702, USA.
National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Florida State University, 1800 East Paul Dirac Drive, Tallahassee, FL 32310, USA.


Mercury (Hg) concentration in fish of the Gulf of the Mexico (GoM) is a major concern due to the importance of the GoM for U.S. fisheries. The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill in April 2010 in the northern GoM resulted in large amounts of oil and dispersant released to the water column, which potentially modified Hg bioaccumulation patterns in affected areas. We measured Hg species (methylmercury (MMHg) and inorganic Hg (IHg)) concentrations, and light (C, N and S) and Hg stable isotopes in muscle and liver tissues from tilefish (Lopholatilus chamaleonticeps) sampled in 2012 and 2013 along the shelf break of the northeastern GoM. Fish located close to the mouth of the Mississippi River (MR) and northwest of the DWH well-head (47 km) showed significantly lower Hg levels in muscle and liver than fish located further northeast of the DWH (>109 km), where 98% of tilefish had Hg levels in the muscle above US consumption advisory thresholds (50% for tilefish close to the DWH). Differences in light and Hg stable isotopes signatures were observed between these two areas, showing higher δ15N, and lower δ202Hg, Δ199Hg and δ34S in fish close to the DWH/MR. This suggests that suspended particles from the MR reduces Hg bioavailability at the base of the GoM food chains. This phenomenon can be locally enhanced by the DWH that resulted in increased particles in the water column as evidenced by the marine snow layer in the sediments. On the other hand, freshly deposited Hg associated with organic matter in more oligotrophic marine waters enhanced Hg bioaccumulation in local food webs. Comparing Hg isotopic composition in liver and muscle of fish indicates specific metabolic response in fish having accumulated high levels of MMHg.


Hg bioavailability; Methylmercury accumulation; Mississippi River; Natural stable isotopes

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