Mercury accumulation in sharks from the coastal waters of southwest Florida

Darren Rumbold, Robert Wasno, Neil Hammerschlag, Aswani Volety

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


As large long-lived predators, sharks are particularly vulnerable to exposure to methylmercury biomagnified through the marine food web. Accordingly, nonlethal means were used to collect tissues for determining mercury (Hg) concentrations and stable isotopes of carbon (δ(13)C) and nitrogen (δ(15)N) from a total of 69 sharks, comprising 7 species, caught off Southwest Florida from May 2010 through June 2013. Species included blacknose (Carcharhinus acronotus), blacktip (C. limbatus), bull (C. leucas), great hammerhead (Sphyrna mokarran), lemon (Negaprion brevirostris), sharpnose (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae), and tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier). The sharks contained Hg concentrations in their muscle tissues ranging from 0.19 mg/kg (wet-weight basis) in a tiger shark to 4.52 mg/kg in a blacktip shark. Individual differences in total length and δ(13)C explained much of the intraspecific variation in Hg concentrations in blacknose, blacktip, and sharpnose sharks, but similar patterns were not evident for Hg and δ(15)N. Interspecific differences in Hg concentration were evident with greater concentrations in slower-growing, mature blacktip sharks and lower concentrations in faster-growing, young tiger sharks than other species. These results are consistent with previous studies reporting age-dependent growth rate can be an important determinant of intraspecific and interspecific patterns in Hg accumulation. The Hg concentrations observed in these sharks, in particular the blacktip shark, also suggested that Hg may pose a threat to shark health and fitness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)402-412
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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