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The effect of selenium on mercury assimilation by freshwater organisms

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In this study, we showed that selenium (Se) deposition from metal smelters in Sudbury, Ontario, greatly re duces the bioassimilation of mercury (Hg) by aquatic biota throughout the food web. Concentrations of total and methyl mercury in tissues of zooplankton, mayflies (Stenonema femoratum), amphipods (Hyalella azteca), and young-of-the-year perch (Perca flavescens) were positively correlated with increasing distance from Sudbury smelters and inversely correlated with Se concentrations in lake water. Although concentrations of total Hg and total Se in tissues showed weak or no correlation in most of the studied aquatic species, methyl mercury and total Se showed much clearer inverse trends. Similar to the results of our previous study of muscle tissue from adult perch and walleye (Sander vitreus), these findings suggest that Se plays an important role in limiting the whole-body assimilation of Hg at lower levels of the aquatic food chain. High Se concentrations may force a preferential assimilation of the element over Hg through a competitive adsorption on binding sites. They may also restrict the solubility and availability of Hg to aquatic organisms or reduce the methylation of this metal in lakes.

Nous montrons dans cette étude que la déposition de sélénium (Se) provenant des hauts fourneaux de Sudbury en Ontario réduit grandement l'assimilation du mercure (Hg) par le biote aquatique tout au long de la chaîne alimentaire. Les concentrations en Hg total et méthylmercure dans les tissus de zooplancton, éphémères (Stenonema femoratum), amphipodes (Hyalella azteca) et jeunes perchaudes (Perca flavescens) de l'année ont pu être directement corrélées avec la distance qui les sépare des hauts fourneaux de Sudbury et inversement corrélées avec les concentrations de Se dans l'eau de lac. Alors que les concentrations en Hg total et Se total dans les tissus ne montrent que des corrélations faibles ou nulles entre elles chez la plupart des organismes étudiés, le méthylmercure et le Se total montrent des relations inverses beaucoup plus claires. De façon similaire aux résultats de notre étude précédente sur les tissus musculaires de perchaudes et de dorés (Sander vitreus) adultes, ces données laissent croire que le Se joue un rôle important en limitant l'assimilation intégrale du Hg aux niveaux inférieurs de la chaîne alimentaire aquatique. Les fortes concentrations de Se pourraient conduire à une assimilation préférentielle de cet élément sur celle du Hg à travers une adsorption compétitive sur des sites de liaison. Elles pourraient aussi restreindre la solubilité et la disponibilité du mercure chez les organismes aquatiques ou réduire la méthylation de ce métal dans les lacs.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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