Total mercury and methylmercury in river dolphins (Inia spp.) in the Madeira River Basin, Western Amazon


Barbosa, M.S.

Additional Authors

Carvalho, D.P.; Gravena, W.; De Almeida, R.; Mussy, M.H.; Sousa, E.A.; Holanda, I.B.B; De Sousa-Filho, I.F.; Bastos, W.R.



Volume & Issue

volume 28



Country / Region

Brazil, Bolivia

Document Type

Peer-reviewed journal article


Amazon river dolphin

Science Keywords

Animal Health

Conservation Measure

Research and monitoring

Threat Keywords

Pollution, Mining


In the Amazon, mercury (Hg) contamination comes from ASGM operations along with soil remobilization processes associated with deforestation. The objective of this study was to evaluate the exposure to methylmercury (MeHg) and total mercury (THg) in 88 samples of skin and blubber tissue obtained from live captured river dolphins (Inia boliviensisInia geoffrensis, and Inia spp.) in the Madeira River Basin. THg and MeHg measurements were performed by CV-AAS and GC-AFS, respectively. We also calculated the daily intake rate (DIR) of THg (wet weight) by Inia spp. THg levels in blubber tissue of adult river dolphins (Inia spp.) ranged from 0.015 to 3.804 mg kg−1, while MeHg concentrations in blubber tissue varied from 0.04 to 2.65 mg kg−1 and in skin tissue from 0.09 to 0.66 mg kg−1. There were no significant differences in MeHg concentration in blubber (p = 0.616) and skin (p = 0.498) tissue samples between adult males and females in the different sampling locations. The adult animals showed differences in THg and MeHg concentrations significantly higher than in the calves. The estimate of the DIR of the genus Inia ranged from 1.17 to 12.35 μg kg−1 day−1 (bw), from the consumption of fish species with herbivorous to piscivorous habits, respectively. More biological and ecological data, such as the precise determination of age, mediated length, weight, and diet of river dolphins, are necessary to verify the Hg biomagnification. However, our data indicate that bioaccumulation is an active process in the dolphins of the Madeira River Basin.