Freshwater predatory fish
Mercury rising Environmental scientists have discovered why deep sea predatory fish in the Pacific Ocean contain higher levels of mercury than their piscine cousins near the surface.
When mercury is released into the oceans,bacteria transform the element into a toxic form that can be taken up by fish known as methylmercury.
At the surface,sunlight destroys up to 80 per cent of the methylmercury produced by these bacteria,according to a recent study published in .
However,in murky waters between 50 and 610 metres below the ocean's surface,methylmercury remains in the food web as bacteria devour mercury-contaminated detritus sinking from the surface.
Those bacteria become food for other creatures and mercury thereby spreads through the Pacific's food web. Methylmercury accumulates higher in the food web because prey pass on mercury contamination to predators,which lack a biological means to dump the poison.
Humans sit at the top of the oceans' food web and accumulate methylmercury after making lunch of oceanic predators,such as mahi-mahi fish.
Mercury itself harms humans,but people face the greatest threat from methylmercury consumption because our bodies lack sufficient defences against the toxin,according to a US Geological Survey fact sheet. Severe exposure can kill a person,while lower-level doses cause neurological problems,including reduction in motor skills and sensation.
Humans the source of mercury
The mercury entering the Pacific ecosystem bore the chemical signature of pollution from coal plants and other human-related sources. This suggests the mercury menace may increase in the future.
Pollution in the winds blowing from Asia onto the Pacific will continue to carry ever-increasing amounts of mercury as the regions' industrial production and demand for energy increases.
"The implications are that if we're going to effectively reduce the mercury concentrations in open-ocean fish,we're going to have to reduce global emissions of mercury,including emissions from places like China and India, " says lead author Joel Blum of the University of Michigan. "Cleaning up our own shorelines is not going to be enough. This is a global atmospheric problem."
The rising mercury in thermometers may also cause a rise in mercury levels in seafood.
Marine biologists have observed an expansion of oxygen-deprived waters below 400 metres. Mercury munching bacteria thrive in these oxygen-poor regions. Climate change may be accelerating the expansion of these regions.
"In the next few decades there will be changes in mercury concentrations in the Pacific Ocean,and those changes are likely to be different for surface waters than for deep waters, " says co-author Brian Popp of the University of Hawaii.
"Understanding the competing processes that produce and destroy monomethlylmercury at different depths in the ocean is critical to tracing its bioaccumulation in fishes and the potential consequences for human food supply."
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A case against punctuated equilibrium2008-10-01 20:36:59 by HispanicMan
LONDON (Reuters) - Some colorful cichlid fish in Africa's Lake Victoria formed a new species by adapting their vision, showing that geographical isolation is not essential for divergence.
The fish evolved to improve their ability to see food and predators at different depths, and this also affected the way they saw colors and attracted mates, said Ole Seehausen, who led the study published in the journal Nature.
"The split of one species into two was initiated by adaptation of the sensory system, in this case the eyes, to the local environment," said Seehausen
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