Mercury Distribution, Methylation and Volatilization in Microcosms with and without the Sea Anemone Bunodosoma caissarum
Friday, 19 December 2014
Mercury (Hg) can be a dangerous contaminant and has a complex biogeochemical cycling in aquatic environments. The sea anemone Bunodosoma caissarum is an endemic species in Brazil capable of bioaccumulating Hg from the ambient seawater. The radiotracer 203Hg was used in order to investigate mechanisms of Hg uptake and depuration of B. caissarum and the distribution of Hg in laboratory model systems, with and without B. caissarum. A single initial spike of 203Hg was added to each microcosm. Microcosms had continuous air renovation and trapping of Hg volatile forms. Total Hg in different compartments was measured by gamma spectrometry. In the uptake experiment 203Hg activity was determined periodically in seawater and specimens for 6 days. At the end, specimens had an average bioconcentration factor of 70. After the uptake experiment, methylmercury (MeHg) in seawater was extracted and measured by liquid scintillation. In microcosms with and without B. caissarum, respectively 0.05% and 0.32% of the initial spike was found as MeHg. Hg was probably less available for methylation in the first because of bioaccumulation and higher concentrations of suspended particulate matter that could form complexes with Hg. After that, specimens were transferred to unspiked microcosms. After a 48 day depuration specimens still retained 35 - 70% of the previously bioaccumulated Hg and 0.2 - 2.4% of the total Hg was MeHg. The presence of B. caissarum resulted in an unexpected higher volatilization of Hg (58%) compared to controls (17%). This increased volatilization is possibly a result of Hg2+ reduction mediated by microorganisms associated with its tissues and mucus secretions and/or an unknown defense mechanism of this species.