[MARMAM] New publication: Effect of trophic position on mercury concentrations in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from the northern Gulf of Mexico

McCormack, Meaghan (DEC) Meaghan.McCormack at dec.ny.gov
Tue Oct 26 17:13:39 PDT 2021

Dear Colleagues,

My coauthors and I are pleased to share our recent article published in Environmental Research, which is currently available with free access for 50 days through the following link:

McCormack, M. A., Nowlin, W. H., & Dutton, J. (2021). Effect of trophic position on mercury concentrations in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from the northern Gulf of Mexico. Environmental Research, 112124.

Marine species from the Gulf of Mexico often have higher mercury (Hg) concentrations than conspecifics in the Atlantic Ocean. Spatial differences in Hg sources, environmental conditions, and microbial communities influence both Hg methylation rates and the bioavailability of Hg to organisms at the base of the food web. Mercury bioaccumulates within organisms and biomagnifies in marine food webs, and therefore reaches the greatest concentrations in long-lived marine carnivores, such as dolphins. In this study, we explored whether differences in trophic position and foraging habitat among bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from the northern Gulf of Mexico (nGoM) contributed to the observed variation in skin total Hg (THg) concentrations. Using the δ13C and δ34S values in dolphin skin, we assigned deceased stranded dolphins from Florida (FL; n = 29) and Louisiana (LA; n = 72) to habitats (estuarine, barrier island, and coastal) east and west of the Mississippi River Delta (MRD). We estimated the mean trophic position of dolphins from each habitat using δ15N values from stranded dolphin skin and tissues of primary consumers taken from the literature following a Bayesian framework. Finally, we compared trophic positions and THg concentrations among dolphins from each habitat, accounting for sex and body length. Estimated marginal mean THg concentrations (μg/g dry weight) were greatest in dolphins assigned to the coastal habitat and estuarine habitats east of the MRD (range: 2.59–4.81), and lowest in dolphins assigned to estuarine and barrier island habitats west of the MRD (range: 0.675–0.993). On average, dolphins from habitats with greater THg concentrations also had higher estimated trophic positions, except for coastal dolphins. Our results suggest that differences in trophic positions and foraging habitats contribute to spatial variability in skin THg concentrations among nGoM bottlenose dolphins, however, the relative influence of these factors on THg concentrations are not easily partitioned.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at meaghan.mccormack at dec.ny.gov

Best regards,
Meaghan McCormack, Ph.D.

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