Bioaccumulation and trophic transfer of mercury in striped bass (Morone saxatilis) and tautog (Tautoga onitis) from the Narragansett Bay (Rhode Island, USA)

Document Type


Publication Title

Marine Environmental Research

Publication Date



We examined the bioaccumulation and trophic transfer of mercury in two marine finfish species, striped bass (Morone saxatilis) and tautog (Tautoga onitis), collected from the Narragansett Bay (Rhode Island, USA). For each of these target fish, white muscle tissue was analyzed for total mercury (Hg) and results were evaluated relative to fish age, body size, and Hg content of preferred prey. Dietary and stable isotope analysis was also used to elucidate the effect of trophic processes on Hg concentrations in fish. The Hg content of muscle tissue was positively correlated with fish age and length for both species, although striped bass accumulated Hg faster than tautog. Accelerated Hg bioaccumulation in striped bass is consistent with its high trophic level (trophic level = 4.07) and Hg-enriched prey (forage fish and macrocrustaceans; mean Hg content = 0.03 mg Hg kg wet wt-1). In contrast, tautog maintain a lower trophic status (trophic level = 3.51) and consume prey with lower Hg levels (mussels and crabs; mean Hg content = 0.02 mg Hg kg wet wt-1). Despite differences in Hg bioaccumulation between target fish, the mean Hg concentration of tautog exceeded levels in striped bass (0.24 and 0.16 mg Hg kg wet wt-1, respectively) due to a disparity in age-at-catch between sampled groups (mean age of tautog and bass = 11.3 and 4.3 yr, respectively). Taking into account legal minimum catch lengths further revealed that 75.0% of legal-size striped bass (>70.2 cm TL; n = 4) and 44.8% of tautog (>40.6 cm TL; n = 29) had Hg levels beyond the US EPA regulatory threshold of 0.3 mg Hg kg wet wt-1. Moreover, Hg-length relationships suggest that each target fish meets this threshold near their minimum legal catch length. Our findings reiterate the value of species ecology to improve predictions of fish Hg and permit better management of human contamination by this important dietary source. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.





First Page


Last Page