Mercury and stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen in mink

Authors

  • James L. Lake,

    Corresponding author
    1. Atlantic Ecology Division–National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882
    Current affiliation:
    1. Contribution AED-06–020 of The Atlantic Ecology Division–National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Narragansett, Rhode Island.; Published on the Web 8/01/2007
    • Atlantic Ecology Division–National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882
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  • Stephan A. Ryba,

    1. Atlantic Ecology Division–National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882
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  • Jonathan Serbst,

    1. Atlantic Ecology Division–National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 27 Tarzwell Drive, Narragansett, Rhode Island 02882
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  • Charles F. Brown IV,

    1. Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Division of Fish and Wildlife, P.O. Box 218, West Kingston, Rhode Island 02892, USA
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  • Lori Gibson

    1. Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Division of Fish and Wildlife, P.O. Box 218, West Kingston, Rhode Island 02892, USA
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Abstract

Total Hg concentrations and values of stable isotopes (δ15N, δ13C) in tissues of mink (Mustela vison) captured in Rhode Island (USA) during winters of 1999 to 2004 were statistically distinct based on location. Mink captured in salt marsh environments (salt marsh group mink [SMGM]) had significantly lower mean Hg concentrations in liver and muscle tissue, and significantly higher δ15N and δ13C values in muscle, than those in corresponding samples of mink from upland freshwater locations (upland group mink [UPGM]). Stomach content samples obtained from the mink carcasses showed that fish, frogs, and crayfish were the dominant food items in UPGM, but in SMGM, fish predominated. Significant correlations were found for total Hg concentrations and stable isotope values between stomach contents and tissues. Comparisons of increases in Hg concentrations and δ15N values from stomach contents to muscle tissue showed nonsignificant differences between UPGM and SMGM for Hg concentrations (SMGM, factor of 4.2; UPGM, factor of 3.9) and δ15N values (SMGM, difference of 3.9‰; UPGM, difference of 3.1‰). These results suggest that the length of the trophic step and the extent of accumulation of Hg were approximately equal in both mink groups despite the differences in dietary composition and possible differences in accumulation of organic and inorganic Hg. The correspondence of stable isotope values and Hg concentrations between mink tissues and their stomach contents indicates that use of stomach content analysis to identify major prey items, followed by collection and analysis of appropriate field prey, may represent an approach for estimating Hg exposure to mink.

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