Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology

, Volume 51, Issue 3, pp 416–424

Bioaccumulation and Trophic Transfer of Methylmercury in Long Island Sound


DOI: 10.1007/s00244-005-0265-7

Cite this article as:
Hammerschmidt, C.R. & Fitzgerald, W.F. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol (2006) 51: 416. doi:10.1007/s00244-005-0265-7


Humans are exposed to methylmercury (MeHg) principally by consumption of marine fish. The coastal zone supports the majority of marine fish production, and may therefore be an important source of MeHg to humans; however, little is known about the bioaccumulation of MeHg in near-shore marine ecosystems. We examined MeHg in microseston, zooplankton, a decapod crustacean, and four representative species of finfish that differ in trophic status and/or prey selection in Long Island Sound (LIS), a large coastal embayment in the northeastern United States. MeHg biomagnifies in LIS; levels in microseston were 104.2 greater than those in water and 2.3-fold less than zooplankton. MeHg concentrations were related positively to fish length for each species, but often varied considerably among larger individuals. This may be due to differences in the past dietary MeHg exposure of these fish, some of which are migratory. Sedimentary production and mobilization can account for most of the MeHg in microseston of LIS, and by extension, other near-shore locations. Hence, much of the MeHg in higher trophic levels of coastal marine ecosystems, including fishes destined for human consumption, may be attributed to net sedimentary production and dietary bioaccumulation.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chad R. Hammerschmidt
    • 1
    • 2
  • William F. Fitzgerald
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Marine SciencesUniversity of ConnecticutGrotonConnecticut
  2. 2.Department of Marine Chemistry and GeochemistryWoods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionWoods HoleMassachusetts