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More nutritious, less toxic

HANOVER, NHResearch led by Dartmouth scientists found that animals fed nutritious, high-quality food end up with much lower concentrations of toxic methylmercury in their tissues. The result suggests ways in which methylmercurya neurotoxin that can accumulate to hazardous levelscan be slowed in its passage up the food chain to fish.

"This research provides evidence that by eating high-quality food, organisms may reduce their bodily concentration of a contaminant," said lead author Roxanne Karimi, a graduate student in the Dartmouth Department of Biological Sciences. "These findings allow us to predict the conditions under which freshwater fish are likely to carry relatively high mercury levels."

The research is reported in a paper titled "Stoichiometric controls of mercury dilution by growth," to published in the April 23, 2007 online "Early Edition" of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/abstract/0611261104v1).

In laboratory experiments, Karimi and colleagues from Dartmouth, Lakeland College, and Stony Brook University, studied the translucent water flea Daphnia pulex, a species of zooplankton that is one of the chief food sources for freshwater fish. The team measured, over five days, the growth of two groups of juvenile Daphnia, which in their mature state are about 2-3 millimeters in length. Both groups were fed the same amount of algae contaminated with trace amounts of methylmercury; however, one group's algae was of greater nutritional value.

The animals that received the nutritious, phosphorous-rich algae grew 3.5 times faster than the other group, the research found. Although the faster growing zooplankton ingested roughly the same amount of methylmercury as the other group, they ended up with one-third the concentration of toxin in their tissues because, as they grew faster, the toxin was diluted. <
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Contact: Rebecca Bailey
Rebecca.A.Bailey@dartmouth.edu
603-646-2117
Dartmouth College
23-Apr-2007


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