Mercury concentrations in different tissues of turtle and caiman species from the Rio Purus, Amazonas, Brazil

Sam Eggins, Richard C. Vogt, R Da Silveira, Bill MAHER

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Total mercury (Hg) concentrations of muscle, liver, blood, and epidermal keratin were measured in typically consumed, economically and culturally important species of turtle (Podocnemis unifilis and Podocnemis expansa) and caiman (Melanosuchus niger and Caiman crocodilus) from the Rio Purus in the Amazon basin, Brazil. Methylmercury (MeHg) concentrations were also measured in muscle tissue, representing the first analysis of MeHg concentrations in Amazonian reptile species. In muscle tissues Hg was mostly MeHg (79-96%) for all species. No correlations existed between animal size and total Hg or MeHg concentrations for any species other than M. niger, possibly as a result of growth dilution or the evolution of efficient Hg elimination mechanisms. Significant linear correlations were found between total Hg concentrations in all pairs of nonlethally sampled tissues (keratin and blood) and internal tissues (muscle and liver) for M. niger and between keratin and internal tissues for P. expansa, indicating that nonlethally sampled tissues can be analyzed to achieve more widespread and representative monitoring of Hg bioaccumulation in Amazonian reptiles. Although mean Hg concentrations in muscle for all species were below the World Health Organization guideline for safe consumption (500µgkg-1), mean concentrations in caiman liver were above the safe limit for pregnant women and children (200µgkg-1). No significant differences were found between total Hg and MeHg concentrations in tissues from wild-caught and farm-raised P. expansa, suggesting that farming may not reduce Hg exposure to humans.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2771-2781
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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