A Whole Species Approach to Methyl Mercury Toxicity

Methyl mercury's toxicity has been widely studied for its effects on both terrestrial and aquatic systems.Efforts have focused on the effects of methyl mercury on specific biological systems and processes, based on single species assays; and its biomagnification through the trophic web, using multi-species assays.These approaches are functional in establishing the toxicity of methyl mercury within set parameters, but do not allow an accurate assessment of its total impact on a single species.The characteristics of methyl mercury toxicity require that it be approached with a broader scope, one that incorporates both the specific mechanisms of toxicity and the ecology of the species being studied.The purpose of this paper is not to critique the methods of the current literature, but to propose a different focus.A focus that applies the results of single species assays and trophic web studies to developing methods that better quantify the effect of methyl mercury on the!
entire lifecycle of a single species.
The characteristics of methyl mercury toxicity that warrant this alternative focus stem from its disposition for bioaccumulation and biomagnification in the trophic web, and permanant neurological damage.Methyl mercury's bioaccumulation and biomagnification in the trophic web causes the results of classic dose-response studies, involving a point source and one stage in a lifecycle, to be inadequate assessments of its total effect on a single species.These characteristics allow a species to elevate its dose of methyl mercury throughout its lifecycle, and classic dose-response studies only present us with a piece of the whole picture.
The permanent neurological damage that results from methyl mercury has also been poorly addressed.Damage that occurs in one stage of the lifecycle can have detrimental effects in another, and those effects are often found below the point of the no observable effects le…

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