Mercury levels in muscle of six species of turtles eaten by people along the Rio Negro of the Amazon Basin

Larissa Schneider, Lauren Belger, Joanna Burger, Richard Vogt, Camila Ferrara

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Mercury levels in the Amazon River are generally high, but there are no published studies on Hg levels in turtles from the region. In this study, levels of Hg were examined in the muscle of six species of turtles in the Rio Negro in the Amazon basin of Brazil, including Podocnemis unifilis, Podocnemis expansa, Podocnemis erythrocephala, Podocnemis sextuberculata, Peltocephalus dumerilianus, and Chelus fimbriatus. It is important to analyze Hg levels in chelonians in this region because of the potential health risk to humans and other receptors that eat them, as well as their potential use as bioindicators. The effect of sex, weight, and carapace length on Hg concentrations in turtle muscle was examined to determine if the levels represent a health risk to riverine people. There was a significant interspecific difference in Hg levels but no differences as a function of size or gender. The highest Hg level was found in Chelus fimbriatus (mean = 432 ppb, standard deviation ± 196 ppb), followed by Peltocephalus dumerilianus (106 ± 41 ppb), Podocnemis expansa (62 ± 49 ppb), P. sextuberculata (61 ± 40 ppb), P. unilifis (35 plusmn; 17 ppb), and P. erythrocephala (33.1 ± 17 ppb). Of the species studied, the piscivorous C. fimbriatus had the highest Hg level. Hg levels in turtles were similar to the levels found in fish from the same basin. Levels of Hg in the muscle of C. fimbriatus are sufficiently high to pose a potential risk to humans who consume them. This study represents the first comparative study of Hg levels in muscle of six species of turtles.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)444-450
    JournalArchives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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