Diet-specific trophic transfer of mercury in tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) : Biodynamic perspective

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

17 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-296
Journal / PublicationEnvironmental Pollution
Online published21 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018
Externally publishedYes


This study tested the hypothesis that different diets could modulate mercury (Hg) trophic transfer by concurrently altering the transfer of energy (in terms of growth) and transfer of Hg (in terms of biodynamic process). Firstly, we conducted a 40-d laboratory bioaccumulation experiment, in which tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) was exposed to inorganic mercury (Hg[II]) and methylmercury (MeHg) via feeding on three distinct diets (macrophyte, freshwater shrimp, and commercial pellets) at a fixed ingestion rate of 0.065 g g−1 d−1. During the dietary exposure period, tilapia exhibited Hg species- and diet-dependent Hg trophic transfer patterns and diet-specific growth rates. We then employed a biokinetic model to assess how diet-specific biodynamics and/or diet-specific growth rates modulated the overall Hg bioaccumulation and trophic transfer. The diet-specific assimilation efficiencies (AEs) were monitored using radioisotope technique, and the determined AEs of Hg(II) (8.6%–29.7%) varied by 3.5 times among diets whereas the MeHg AEs (94.4%–97.1%) were not affected. The biokinetic modeling further revealed that Hg(II) trophic transfer in tilapia was controlled by the diet-specific AEs, while MeHg trophic transfer was governed by the diet-specific growth rates. Specifically, a diet-derived high growth rate reduced the MeHg trophic transfer in pellets-fed tilapia, and the overall accumulated MeHg level in fish was under the control of both somatic growth dilution and dietary MeHg influx. Moreover, we observed that the Hg levels (mainly as MeHg) in fast-growing farmed tilapia were significantly lower than wild-living tilapia after 100 d exposure in the field, attributed to somatic growth dilution (SGD). Both the laboratory and field study therefore demonstrated the importance of diet-derived SGD in modulating mercury trophic transfer in aquatic food webs. ©2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Research Area(s)

  • Biodynamics, Mercury, Nile tilapia, Somatic growth dilution, Trophic transfer