For more information about this research and the RJD Program, please visit: rjd.miami.edu
As apex marine predators, sharks are susceptible to mercury contamination through bioavailability and bioaccumulation of mercury via natural food web cycles. Mercury exists in the environment in many forms from natural elemental mercury (Hg) to toxic methyl mercury (MeHg). Some of this mercury is naturally occurring while some is derived as waste from anthropogenic sources such as power plants, incinerators, and chlor-alkali industrial plants. Bacteria can convert total mercury into the toxic form of MeHg, which is then available to the food chain.
Mercury contamination may affect sharks, in addition to other challenges they face. Before we can understand how Hg affects sharks, we must characterize mercury in muscle tissue for species captured in southern Florida and determine how much of that mercury is in the toxic form of MeHg. We also will develop a model to correlate total Hg and shark length, in hopes that length may be an estimator of mercury concentration for each species. This may be useful when considering human health advisories, such as the Federal Drug Administration’s 1.0 μg/g (ww) action level for human health concerns.
Video Edit & Graphics: Keenan Warner
Contributing Cinematographer: Christine Shepard
Contributing Cinematographer: Austin Gallagher
Contributing Photographer: Daniel Bohtelo
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