Mercury in Morelet's crocodile eggs from northern Belize

T. R. Rainwater, B. M. Adair, S. G. Platt, T. A. Anderson, G. P. Cobb, S. T. McMurry

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37 Scopus citations


Recent studies have examined mercury accumulation in crocodilians. However, though most researchers have focused on tissue concentrations, few have examined mercury levels in crocodilian eggs. In July 1995, we analyzed mercury in 31 nonviable Morelet's crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii) eggs collected from eight nests across three localities in northern Belize. All eggs were found to contain mercury. Based on an individual egg basis, mean concentration of mercury for all three localities was among the lowest reported for any crocodilian species. When localities were examined separately, mean concentrations for Laguna Seca and Gold Button Lagoon were comparable to those observed in other studies, and the mean for Sapote Lagoon was the lowest ever reported. Based on mean nest concentrations, mercury in eggs from Laguna Seca was approximately two- and tenfold higher than for Gold Button Lagoon and Sapote Lagoon, respectively. Variability in mercury concentrations among localities is likely the result of site-specific differences in mercury input, bioavailabilty, and bioaccumulation. Mercury concentrations were relatively uniform in eggs from the same nest and among nests from the same localities. The presence of mercury in Morelet's crocodile eggs suggests exposure in adult females, developing embryos, and neonates. However, crocodiles in these areas show no overt signs of mercury toxicity, and no indication of population decline is evident. A paucity of data on the effects of mercury on crocodilians precludes meaningful speculation as to the biological significance of tissue and egg concentrations. Controlled laboratory studies and long-term population monitoring are needed to address these questions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-324
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002


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