Uptake and Elimination Routes of Inorganic Mercury and Methylmercury in Daphnia magna

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

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)808-816
Journal / PublicationEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number3
Online published20 Dec 2003
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2004
Externally publishedYes


Mercury (Hg) is an important environmental pollutant due to its highly toxic nature and widespread occurrence in aquatic systems. The biokinetics of Hg in zooplankton have been largely ignored in previous studies. This study examines the assimilation, dissolved uptake, and efflux of inorganic mercury [Hg(II)] and methylmercury (MeHg) in a freshwater cladoceran, Daphnia magna, and models the exposure pathways of Hg(II) and MeHg in the daphnids. The assimilation efficiencies (AEs) of both Hg species decreased significantly with increasing algal carbon concentrations. The dissolved uptake of Hg(II) and MeHg was proportional to the ambient concentration (ranging from environmentally realistic to high concentration over a 3-4 orders of magnitude variation), whereas MeHg had a slightly higher uptake rate constant (0.46 L g-1 h-1) than Hg(II) (0.35 L g-1 h-1). Surprisingly, the efflux rate constants of Hg(II) and MeHg were rather comparable (0.041-0.063 day-1). The release of both Hg(II) and MeHg via different routes (excretion, egestion, molting, and neonate production) was further examined at different food concentrations. It was found that regeneration into the dissolved phase was important for D. magna to eliminate both Hg species, but maternal transfer of Hg(II) (11-15%) and MeHg (32-41%) to neonates represented another important pathway for the elimination of Hg(II) and MeHg from the mothers. Modeling results suggest that food is an important source for MeHg exposure (47-98%), but water exposure represents 31-96% of Hg(II) accumulation in D. magna, depending on the variation of Hg bioconcentration factor in ingested food. Furthermore, MeHg predominates the bioaccumulation of Hg in D. magna even though MeHg constitutes only a small percentage of the total Hg in the water. The results strongly indicate that maternal transfer of Hg(II) and MeHg in freshwater zooplankton should be considered in many toxicity testings and risk assessment in aquatic food chains.