Reduction and methylation of mercury in the terrestrial isopod Porcellio scaber (Crustacea) and its environment
Reduction and methylation of inorganic mercury in Porcellio scaber (Isopoda, Crustacea) and its environment were studied, using a purpose-built experimental setup where Hg cycling was followed using 203Hg2+ tracer in experiments without and with isopods. In experiment without isopods, daily reduction of 203Hg2+ to 203Hg0 under sterile and nonsterile conditions was measured for three weeks to assess the contribution of bacteria to this process. In experiments with isopods, daily release of 203Hg0 was measured for two weeks. Total mercury (T203Hg) and monomethylmercury (T203Hg) in whole animals, gut, digestive glands (hepatopancreas), food (hazelnut leaves), and feces were measured to obtain the assimilation and distribution of mercury in the animals, to investigate the origin and fate of Me203Hg, and, finally, to assess the mass balance of mercury in the experimental system. Experiment without isopods showed the important role of bacteria in reduction of 203Hg2+ to 203Hg0, especially in the first day of the experiment. Experiments with isopods showed that formation of 203Hg0 depended on the 203Hg2+ concentration in the food. The contribution of the isopod’s digestive flora in reduction of 203Hg2+ to 203Hg0 was negligible. Approximately 3% of T203Hg and 2% of Me203Hg consumed was assimilated by the animals. Methylation of 203Hg2+ occurred already in the leaves before they were consumed by the isopods. Assimilation of Me203Hg from the food surprisingly was low. Also, a loss of Me203Hg was noticed when comparing assimilated and excreted Me203Hg versus consumed Me203Hg. This may be explained by the assumption that demethylation of MeHg prevailed over methylation of Hg2+ in the animal’s digestive system, leading to excretion of ingested mercury as Hg2+..