As part of a multi-agency study of alligator health, 28 American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) were captured along a transect through the Florida Everglades in 1999. Liver and tail muscle tissues were sampled and analyzed on a wet weight basis for total mercury (THg) using cold-vapor atomic absorption spectrophotometry. All tissues had detectable concentrations of THg that ranged from 0.6 to 17 mg/kg in liver and from 0.1 to 1.8 mg/kg in tail muscle. THg was more concentrated in liver tissue than tail muscle, but levels were highly correlated between tissues. THg concentrations in tissue differed significantly among locations, with animals from Everglades National Park (ENP) having mean concentrations of THg in liver (10.4 mg/kg) and tail muscle (1.2 mg/kg) that were two-fold higher than basin-wide averages (4.9 and 0.64 mg/kg, respectively). The reasons for higher contamination of ENP alligators were unclear and could not be explained by differences in sex, length, weight or animal age. While δ15N values were positively correlated with THg concentrations in tail muscle, spatial patterns in isotopic composition did not explain the elevated THg levels in ENP alligators. Therefore, it appears that ENP alligators were more highly exposed to mercury in their environment than individuals in other areas. Comparisons to a previous survey by Yanochko et al. [Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 32 (1997) 323] suggest that mercury levels have declined in some Everglades alligators since 1994.
Rumbold, DG, LE Fink, KA Laine, SL Niemczyk, T Chandrasekhar, SD Wankel, and C Kendall. 2002. Levels of mercury in alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) collected along a transect through the Florida Everglades. The Science of the Total Environment, 297 (103):239-252.
October 30, 2002