Mercury concentrations in marine species from the Aleutian Islands: Spatial and biological determinants Academic Article uri icon


  • Several species found in the Bering Sea show significant spatial variation in total mercury concentrations ([THg]) longitudinally along the Aleutian Island chain. We assessed [THg] in other members of the Bering Sea food web to better understand the factors shaping regional differences. [THg] and stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios (δ15N and δ13C values) were measured in muscle tissue from 1052 fishes and cephalopods from parts of the Bering Sea and North Pacific Ocean adjacent to the Aleutian Islands. The spatial distribution of the samples enabled regional comparisons for 8 species of fish and one species of cephalopod. Four species showed higher mean length-standardized [THg] in the western Aleutian Islands management area. [THg] in yellow Irish lord were very different relative to those observed in other species and when included in multi-species analyses drove the overall regional trends in mean [THg]. Multi-species analyses excluding measurements for yellow Irish lord showed mean length-standardized [THg] was greater in the western Aleutian Islands than in the central Aleutian Islands management area. Linear regression of [THg] and δ15N values showed a significant and positive relationship across all species, varying between regions and across species. Isotopic space of all species was significantly different between the western Aleutian Islands and central Aleutian Islands, driven largely by δ13C values. Stable isotope values observed follow the same regional trend of lower trophic taxa reported in the literature, with significantly lower δ13C values in the western Aleutian Islands. We conclude that there are regional differences in carbon and nitrogen stable isotope ecology, as well as species-specific feeding ecology that influence [THg] dynamics in part of the marine food web along the Aleutian Island chain. These regional differences are likely contributors to the observed regional variations of [THg] in some high-level predators found in these regions.

altmetric score

  • 0.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Cyr, A., López, J. A., Rea, L., Wooller, M. J., Loomis, T., Mcdermott, S., & O'Hara, T. M.

citation count

  • 7

publication date

  • January 2019