Mercury accumulation along a contamination gradient and nondestructive indices of bioaccumulation in amphibians

Christine M. Bergeron, Catherine M. Bodinof, Jason M. Unrine, William A. Hopkins

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54 Scopus citations


Mercury (Hg) is an important environmental contaminant due to its global distribution, tendency to bioaccumulate, and toxicity in wildlife. However, Hg has received little attention in amphibians compared to other vertebrates. Amphibians vary widely in life history strategies and feeding ecologies, which could influence Hg exposure and accumulation. To determine whether species and life stage affects Hg bioaccumulation, adults from three species (Plethodon cinereus, Eurycea bislineata, and Bufo americanus) and larvae from the latter two species were collected along a contamination gradient on the South River (VA, USA). Total Hg (THg) concentrations in the contaminated site were 3.5 to 22 times higher than in the reference site. Differences were found in THg concentrations in amphibians that were consistent with their habitat requirements and feeding preferences. In general, adults (3,453 ± 196 ng/g, dry mass) and larvae (2,479 ± 171 ng/g) of the most river-associated species, E. bislineata, had the highest THg concentrations, followed by B. americanus tadpoles (2,132 ± 602 ng/g), whereas adults of the more terrestrial B. americanus (598 ± 117 ng/g) and P. cinereus (583 ± 178 ng/g) had the lowest concentrations. In addition, nondestructive sampling techniques were developed. For the salamander species, THg concentrations in tail tissue were strongly correlated (r≥0.97) with the remaining carcass. A strong positive correlation (r=0.92) also existed between blood and whole-body THg concentrations in B. americanus. These results suggest that amphibians and their terrestrial predators may be at risk of Hg exposure in this system and that nondestructive methods may be a viable sampling alternative that reduces impacts to local populations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)980-988
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2010


  • Amphibian
  • Bioaccumulation
  • Mercury
  • Nondestructive tissues

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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