Mercury bioacumulation in four tissues of Podocnemis erythrocephala (Podocnemididae: Testudines) as a function of water parameters

Larissa Schneider Guilhon, L Belger, Joanna Burger, Richard Vogt

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    32 Citations (Scopus)


    A number of environmental factors influence the dynamics of Hg in aquatic ecosystems, yet few studies have examined these factors for turtles, especially from South America. Redheaded river turtle (Podocnemis erythrocephala) is easy to capture in the black waters of Rio Negro, making it the turtle species that is consumed most often by people of the region. In this study, environmental factors and turtle size were investigated to determine their influence on the Hg concentration in blood, muscle, liver and carapace of the red-headed river turtle. Factors investigated included turtle length, pH, dissolved organic carbon and availability of potential methylation sites (floodplain forests and hydromorphic soils). The study was conducted in the Rio Negro basin, where we collected water and turtle blood, muscle, liver and carapace samples from 12 tributaries for chemical analysis. Through radar imagery and existing soil maps with GIS, the percentage of alluvial floodplains and hydromorphic soils (potential methylation sites) was estimated for each drainage basin at sampling points. The mean Hg concentration in blood of P. erythrocephala was 1.64 ng g -1 (SD=1.36), muscle 33 ng g -1 (SD=11), liver 470 ng g -1 (SD=313) and carapace 68 ng g -1 (SD=32). Sex or length did not influence the Hg concentration in P. erythrocephala blood, muscle and liver, but Hg increased in carapace tissue when length size increased (ANCOVA p=0.007). In the multiple regression analysis, none of the environmental factors studied had a significant relation with blood, muscle, liver and carapace. P. erythrocephala moves among habitats and in the open and interconnected aquatic systems of the Amazon basin, characterized by high levels of limnological variability, a good bioindicator of Hg concentration needs to be relatively sedentary to represent a specific habitat. However, the levels of Hg in liver were sufficient to pose a potential risk to humans that consume them, suggesting the usefulness of P. erythrocephala as a bioindicator.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1048-1054
    Number of pages7
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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