Metals and marine food chains

  • James A. Nott


Food chains consist of variable numbers of trophic levels linked in successive prey and predator relationships. Networks of these chains form complex food webs that route the supply, transfer and disposal of potentially toxic metals within ecological systems. Metals are transferred along the chains but they differ from the organic constituents of food in two main respects. Firstly, they can enter food chains directly from solution in sea-water by crossing permeable membranes of marine organisms. Within tissues they are compartmentalized in membrane-limited vacuoles and bound to ligands to reduce the toxic reactivity (Mason and Nott, 1981; Brown, 1982; George, 1982; Taylor and Simkiss, 1984; Roesijadi, 1992; Viarengo and Nott, 1993). These processes remove metals from tissue fluids, and diffusion gradients inwards from seawater are maintained; concentration factors in excess of a thousand-fold can be attained. Concentration factors represent the net balance of continuous uptake and excretion, which can result in negligible or excessive accumulation according to the metal and its availability and the species of organism (Baudo, 1981, 1985; Bryan, 1976b, 1979; Fowler, 1982; Suedel et al., 1994). Uptake by a particular species can be modified by stage of life history, physiological acclimation and genetic adaptation (Chapter 7).


Marine Biology Digestive Gland Faecal Pellet Mytilus Edulis Hermit Crab 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • James A. Nott

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