• arsenic;
  • marine fish;
  • trophic position;
  • speciation


In this study the accumulation and distribution of arsenic compounds in marine fish species in relation to their trophic position was investigated. Arsenic compounds were measured in eight tissues of mullet Mugil cephalus (detritivore), luderick Girella tricuspidata (herbivore) and tailor Pomatomus saltatrix (carnivore) by high performance liquid chromatography–inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. The majority of arsenic in tailor tissues, the pelagic carnivore, was present as arsenobetaine (86–94%). Mullet and luderick also contained high amounts of arsenobetaine in all tissues (62–98% and 59–100% respectively) except the intestines (20% and 24% respectively). Appreciable amounts of dimethylarsinic acid (1–39%), arsenate (2–38%), arsenite (1–9%) and trimethylarsine oxide (2–8%) were identified in mullet and luderick tissues. Small amounts of arsenocholine (1–3%), methylarsonic acid (1–3%) and tetramethylarsonium ion (1–2%) were found in some tissues of all three species. A phosphate arsenoriboside was identified in mullet intestine (4%) and from all tissues of luderick (1–6%) except muscle. Pelagic carnivore fish species are exposed mainly to arsenobetaine through their diet and accumulate the majority of arsenic in tissues as this compound. Detritivore and herbivore fish species also accumulate arsenobetaine from their diet, with quantities of other inorganic and organic arsenic compounds. These compounds may result from ingestion of food and sediment, degradation products (e.g. arsenobetaine to trimethylarsine oxide; arsenoribosides to dimethylarsinic acid), conversion (e.g. arsenate to dimethylarsinic acid and trimethylarsine oxide by bacterial action in digestive tissues) and/or in situ enzymatic activity in liver tissue. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.