, Volume 23, Issue 7, pp 1164–1171 | Cite as

Mercury accumulation in bats near hydroelectric reservoirs in Peninsular Malaysia

  • Khairunnisa Syaripuddin
  • Anjali Kumar
  • Kong-Wah Sing
  • Muhammad-Rasul Abdullah Halim
  • Muhammad-Nasir Nursyereen
  • John-James Wilson


In large man-made reservoirs such as those resulting from hydroelectric dam construction, bacteria transform the relatively harmless inorganic mercury naturally present in soil and the submerged plant matter into toxic methylmercury. Methylmercury then enters food webs and can accumulate in organisms at higher trophic levels. Bats feeding on insects emerging from aquatic systems can show accumulation of mercury consumed through their insect prey. In this study, we investigated whether the concentration of mercury in the fur of insectivorous bat species was significantly higher than that in the fur of frugivorous bat species, sampled near hydroelectric reservoirs in Peninsular Malaysia. Bats were sampled at Temenggor Lake and Kenyir Lake and fur samples from the most abundant genera of the two feeding guilds—insectivorous (Hipposideros and Rhinolophus) and frugivorous (Cynopterus and Megaerops) were collected for mercury analysis. We found significantly higher concentrations of total mercury in the fur of insectivorous bats. Mercury concentrations also differed significantly between insectivorous bats sampled at the two sites, with bats from Kenyir Lake, the younger reservoir, showing higher mercury concentrations, and between the insectivorous genera, with Hipposideros bats showing higher mercury concentrations. Ten bats (H. cf. larvatus) sampled at Kenyir Lake had mercury concentrations approaching or exceeding 10 mg/kg, which is the threshold at which detrimental effects occur in humans, bats and mice.


Mercury Hipposideros Rhinolophus Megaerops Cynopterus Hydroelectric reservoirs 



KS and KWS were supported in part by Research Assistantships at the Museum of Zoology through a special grant (A-21010-DA322-B29000) from the University of Malaya. Research expenses were supported by grants from the University of Malaya (PG099-2012B; RP003D-13SUS) to JJW and Mohd Sofian-Azirun (UM). The Department of Wildlife and National Parks provided a permit for fieldwork in Peninsular Malaysia. Noraishah Abdul-Aziz assisted in securing the permit. The Department of Forestry of Terengganu also issued a permit for fieldwork in Kenyir. Reuben Clements of RIMBA ( helped in planning, providing accommodation and engaging field guides at Temenggor and Kenyir. Field equipment was loaned from the Ecology and Biodiversity Program, Institute of Biological Sciences, UM. Locals from Pulau Tujuh Village, Gerik and Muhamad Fauzi Abdul Hamid assisted with fieldwork. We thank Dave Yates and Dave Evers, for providing access to unpublished data, and Kevin Regan at the Biodiversity Research Institute. Rosli Ramli (UM) provided comment on this project in his capacity as MSc co-supervisor to KS. Joanna Coleman (NUS) provided a venue for discussion which led to this collaboration.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Khairunnisa Syaripuddin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Anjali Kumar
    • 3
  • Kong-Wah Sing
    • 1
    • 2
  • Muhammad-Rasul Abdullah Halim
    • 4
  • Muhammad-Nasir Nursyereen
    • 2
  • John-James Wilson
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Museum of Zoology, Institute of Biological Sciences, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of MalayaKuala LumpurMalaysia
  2. 2.Ecology and Biodiversity Program, Institute of Biological Sciences, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of MalayaKuala LumpurMalaysia
  3. 3.Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  4. 4.Zoological and Ecological Research Network (ZEN), Institute of Biological Sciences, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of MalayaKuala LumpurMalaysia

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