MEPS 135:137-143 (1996)  -  doi:10.3354/meps135137

Intracellular storage of mercury and selenium in different marine vertebrates

Nigro M, Leonzio C

Intracellular storage and levels of mercury and selenium were studied in the livers of top marine predators belonging to different vertebrate taxa. Total mercury levels showed very important interspecific variations, ranging from 2.6 ug g-1 in tuna and swordfish to several thousand ug g-1 (dry weight) in bottle-nosed and Risso's dolphins. However, methylmercury was less variable, ranging from 1 to 174 ug g-1 (dry weight). The ratio between Hg and Se levels was close to equimolarity in marine mammals and cormorants, but a large excess of selenium in relation to mercury was observed in fish. Electron microscopy and x-ray microanalysis revealed mineral granules consisting of clustered crystalline particles in toothed cetaceans, sea lions and cormorants but not in tuna and swordfish. Granules containing mercury and selenium were mainly located in the cytoplasm of macrophages. These results suggest that the biosynthesis of mineral granules containing mercury and selenium in top marine predators is a common feature among these animals and that the existence of elimination pathways for the excretion of organic mercury might influence the amount of mercury and selenium stored as mineral granules in a particular species.

Mercury selenide . Mercury . Selenium . X-ray microanalysis . Marine top predators . Mercury detoxication

Full text in pdf format