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Mercury concentrations of two toothfish and three of its prey species from the Pacific sector of the Antarctic

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 October 2011

Stuart M. Hanchet*
National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) Ltd, PO Box 893, Nelson, New Zealand
Dianne Tracey
National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) Ltd, Private Bag 14901, Wellington, New Zealand
Alistair Dunn
National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) Ltd, Private Bag 14901, Wellington, New Zealand
Peter Horn
National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) Ltd, Private Bag 14901, Wellington, New Zealand
Neville Smith
Ministry of Fisheries, PO Box 1020, Wellington, New Zealand


Muscle tissue samples were collected from Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni Norman) and Patagonian toothfish (D. eleginoides Smitt) in 1998 and from D. mawsoni and three of its prey species - Whitson's grenadier (Macrourus whitsoni (Regan)), ice fish (Chionobathyscus dewitti Andriashev & Neyelov), and blue antimora (Antimora rostrata (Günther)) - in 2006 to determine their mercury. Mercury levels were highly variable both within and between the five species studied but were positively correlated with fish length in four of the species. Once the factors length and year had been accounted for, the mercury levels in D. eleginoides were more than four times greater than in D. mawsoni. The low levels of mercury in D. mawsoni relative to its prey species and the four-fold difference in mercury concentrations between it and D. eleginoides were unexpected. Reasons for these different levels of bioaccumulation were explored including differences in diet, growth and longevity, and location. Differences in bioaccumulation between the two toothfish species could be explained partly through differences in their geographic distribution and differences in trophic position. However, the low levels of mercury in D. mawsoni relative to its prey species can only be explained by a lower rate of mercury assimilation and/or a higher rate of mercury elimination by D. mawsoni.

Biological Sciences
Copyright © Antarctic Science Ltd 2011

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