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Differential Bioaccumulation of Mercury and Selenium in Stomach Contents and Tissues of Three Colorado, USA, Cutthroat Trout Populations


Total mercury (THg) and selenium (TSe) levels were measured in stomach contents (SC) and twelve tissues of cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii) occurring in three high-elevation lakes of Colorado, USA, inhabiting watersheds absent past and current mining activities. For 32 of 36 tissues, including muscle, mean THg wet weight (ww) concentrations were greater than in the diet (SC) for all sites, indicating biomagnification. Ranges of THg (µg/kg ww) for SC and stomach tissue (ST) were 1.23–73.54 and 14.55–61.35, respectively. Selenium concentrations in fish muscle were not greater than in the SC indicating a trophic transfer factor < 1.0. However, in several other tissues, mean Se dry weight (dw) levels were greater than in SC for all three lakes. Ranges of TSe for SC and ST were 166–7544 and 797–7523 (µg/kg dw), respectively. The muscle to egg/ovary ratio for Se averaged 2.30, 4.60, and 2.68 for the three populations. The variability of SC (planktonic vs. benthic) and differential distributions of THg and TSe in SC and organ-tissues generated questions focusing on the seasonal, physiological, and genetic drivers of these organometal(loid)s in subalpine trout.

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We thank Pueblo County Commissioners Terry A. Hart, Garrison M. Ortiz, and Chris A. Wiseman, the Pueblo Board of Water Works, Don Colalancia, and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District for providing funding for analytical, instrumentation and publication costs. This paper is dedicated to Jason A. Turner’s creativity. Reference to trade names does not imply endorsement by the U. S. Government.

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Correspondence to Scott J. Herrmann.

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Herrmann, S.J., Nimmo, D.W.R., Carsella, J.S. et al. Differential Bioaccumulation of Mercury and Selenium in Stomach Contents and Tissues of Three Colorado, USA, Cutthroat Trout Populations. Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 104, 595–601 (2020).

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  • Mercury
  • Selenium
  • Cutthroat trout
  • Stomach contents
  • Tissue biomagnification
  • Trophic transfer factor
  • High-altitude lakes