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Mercury accumulation, speciation, and temporal trends in Atlantic Stingrays (Hypanus sabinus)

  • Brianne K. SoulenEmail author
  • Douglas H. Adams
  • Aaron P. Roberts
Article

Abstract

Mercury (Hg) deposited into aquatic sediments can be converted into the more toxic methylmercury (MeHg) by microbial activity. Atlantic stingrays (Hypanus sabinus) are an estuarine and nearshore species found in coastal regions of the western North Atlantic, occurring in multiple habitat types, and feeding mainly on benthic invertebrates. Mercury dynamics and speciation in stingrays have not been well examined. This study quantified total Hg and Hg species (Hg (II) and MeHg) in Atlantic stingrays sampled from Florida’s Indian River Lagoon (IRL) from 2012 to 2013. Tissues (muscle and liver) collected from 29 stingrays were lyophilized and homogenized before being analyzed using a direct mercury analyzer. Concentrations of total Hg in muscle were positively related to stingray disk width, but concentrations in liver were not. Mean (±SD) total Hg in muscle (0.56 ± 0.30 mg/kg dw) was significantly higher than mean total Hg in liver (0.23 ± 0.19 mg/kg dw). Within liver tissue, percent MeHg (of total Hg) ranged from 31 to 99%. The ratio between total Hg in liver and total Hg in muscle was <1 for nearly all individuals, suggesting a lack of active hepatic demethylation and sequestration mechanisms. Concentrations of Hg in IRL Atlantic stingrays fall below concentrations known to result in direct toxicity to fishes; however, effects thresholds are not well understood for elasmobranchs. Comparisons of Hg concentrations in IRL Atlantic stingrays sampled previously (37 individuals in 1994) indicate that total Hg concentrations in muscle of Atlantic stingrays have decreased over the past two decades, suggesting a reduction in the bioavailable Hg in the IRL ecosystem.

Keywords

Total mercury Methylmercury Elasmobranch Temporal mercury trends Florida 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We greatly appreciate the efforts of scientists from the FWC–FWRI Fisheries-Independent Monitoring (FIM) program at the FWRI Indian River Field Lab for their assistance in collecting stingrays for this study. We would also like to thank Matt Alloy, Alexis Wormington, and Kristin Bridges of the aquatic toxicology lab at the University of North Texas for help with sample preparation.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences and Advanced Environmental Research InstituteUniversity of North TexasDentonUSA
  2. 2.Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation CommissionFish and Wildlife Research Institute, Indian River Field LabMelbourneUSA

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