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Spatial variability in total and organic mercury levels in Antarctic krill Euphausia superba across the Scotia Sea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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  • Embargoed (until 14/01/20)


José Seco, José C. Xavier, João P. Coelho, Bárbara Pereira, Geraint Tarling, Miguel A. Pardal, Paco Bustamante, Gabriele Stowasser, Andrew S. Brierley, Maria E. Pereira

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Total and organic mercury concentrations were determined for males, females and juveniles of Euphausia superba collected at three discrete locations in the Scotia Sea (the South Orkney Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Polar Front) to assess spatial mercury variability in Antarctic krill. There was clear geographic differentiation in mercury concentrations, with specimens from the South Orkneys having total mercury concentrations 5 to 7 times higher than Antarctic krill from South Georgia and the Antarctic Polar Front. Mercury did not appear to accumulate with life-stage since juveniles had higher concentrations of total mercury (0.071 μg g−1 from South Orkney Islands; 0.015 μg g−1 from South Georgia) than adults (0.054 μg g−1 in females and 0.048 μg g−1 in males from South Orkney Islands; 0.006 μg g−1 in females and 0.007 μg g−1 in males from South Georgia). Results suggest that females use egg laying as a mechanism to excrete mercury, with eggs having higher concentrations than the corresponding somatic tissue. Organic mercury makes up a minor percentage of total mercury (15–37%) with the percentage being greater in adults than in juveniles. When compared to euphausiids from other parts of the world, the concentration of mercury in Antarctic krill is within the same range, or higher, highlighting the global distribution of this contaminant. Given the high potential for biomagnification of mercury through food webs, concentrations in Antarctic krill may have deleterious effects on long-lived Antarctic krill predators.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)332-339
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Early online date14 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

    Research areas

  • Food-web, Eggs, Organic mercury, Southern Ocean, Antarctica

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