Mercury speciation in piscivorous fish from mining-impacted reservoirs

James S. Kuwabara, Yuji Arai, Brent R. Topping, Ingrid J. Pickering, Graham N. George

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Guadalupe Reservoir (GUA), California, and Lahontan Reservoir (LAH), Nevada, U.S. are both affected either directly or indirectly by the legacy of gold and silver mining in the Sierra Nevada during the nineteenth century. Analysis of total mercury in fish from these lentic systems consistently indicate elevated concentrations (>1 μg·g-1 wet weight; hereinafter, all concentrations are reported as wet weight unless indicated otherwise) well above the U.S. Environmenal Protection Agency's human consumption advisory level for fish (<0.3 μg·g-1). Replicate X-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) analyses on largemouth bass and hybrid striped bass from GUA and LAH were performed to determine predominant chemical species of mercury accumulated by these high-trophic-level piscivores that are exposed to elevated mercury through trophic transfer in mining-impacted lentic systems. Despite distinct differences in mercury source, the proximity of the source, and concentrations of complexing ligands, results of XANES analysis clearly indicated that mercury accumulated in these individual fish from the two reservoirs were dominated by methylmercury cysteine complexes. These findings are consistent with results from commercial fish species inhabiting marine environments which are presumed to include differing mercury sources (e.g., atmospheric, hydrothermal, or benthic). The dominance of methylmercury cysteine complexes in muscle tissues of fish obtained from such contrasting environments and exposure conditions suggests that a generic toxicological model for the consumption of fish could be applicable over a wide range of ecologic settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2745-2749
Number of pages5
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry


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