Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 1677–1686 | Cite as

Comparison of two wild rodent species as sentinels of environmental contamination by mine tailings

  • E. Tovar-Sánchez
  • L. T. Cervantes
  • C. Martínez
  • E. Rojas
  • M. Valverde
  • M. L. Ortiz-Hernández
  • P. Mussali-Galante
Research Article



Contamination with heavy metals is among the most hazardous environmental concerns caused by mining activity. A valuable tool for monitoring these effects is the use of sentinel organisms. Particularly, small mammals living inside mine tailings are an excellent study system because their analysis represents a realistic approach of mixtures and concentrations of metal exposure.


We analyzed metal tissue concentrations and DNA damage levels for comparison between genders of a sentinel (Peromyscus melanophrys) and a nonsentinel (Baiomys musculus) species. Also, the relationship between DNA damage and the distance from the contamination source was evaluated.


This study was conducted in an abandoned mine tailing at Morelos, Mexico. Thirty-six individuals from both species at the exposed and reference sites were sampled. Metal concentrations in bone and liver of both species were analyzed by atomic absorption spectrophotometry, and DNA damage levels were assayed using the alkaline comet assay.


In general, concentrations of zinc, nickel, iron, and manganese were statistically higher in exposed individuals. A significant effect of the organ and the site on all metal tissue concentrations was detected. Significant DNA damage levels were registered in the exposed group, being higher in B. musculus. Females registered higher DNA damage levels than males. A negative relationship between distance from the mine tailing and DNA damage in B. musculus was observed.


We consider that B. musculus is a suitable species to assess environmental quality, especially for bioaccumulable pollutants—such as metals—and recommend that it may be considered as a sentinel species.


Baiomys musculus Peromyscus melanophrys Heavy metals DNA damage Comet assay 



The authors thank Edith Rivas, M. Mora Jarvio, Evodio Rendon Alquicira, and G. Rangel Altamirano for the technical assistance. This research was supported by Programa de Mejoramiento al Profesorado scholarship to L.T.C.R. and Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología scholarship to C.M.B.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Tovar-Sánchez
    • 1
  • L. T. Cervantes
    • 1
  • C. Martínez
    • 1
  • E. Rojas
    • 2
  • M. Valverde
    • 2
  • M. L. Ortiz-Hernández
    • 3
  • P. Mussali-Galante
    • 2
  1. 1.Departamento de Sistemática y Evolución, Centro de Investigación en Biodiversidad y ConservaciónUniversidad Autónoma del Estado de MorelosCuernavacaMexico
  2. 2.Departamento de Medicina Genómica y Toxicología Ambiental, Instituto de Investigaciones BiomédicasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMéxico D.F.Mexico
  3. 3.Centro de Investigaciones en BiotecnologíaUniversidad Autónoma del Estado de MorelosCuernavacaMexico

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