School of Hydrology and Water Resources, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, 210044 Nanjing, China; State Key Laboratory of Organic Geochemistry, Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guangzhou 510640, China. Electronic address: [Email]
Marine copepods play an important role in transferring mercury to higher trophic levels in aquatic ecosystems. Exposure time is an important environmental parameter that potentially influences the bioaccumulation and biomagnification of Hg in copepods, which increases the uncertainty in risk assessments of Hg in food chains. In the present study, we employed the radiotracer technique to evaluate the efflux behavior of inorganic mercury [Hg(II)] and methylmercury (MeHg), and the effects of exposure time in a population of Tigriopus japonicus copepods. Exposure treatments were compared to understand the effects of exposure time (1 d, 3 d, and 7 d) on the release routes and efflux rate constants (ke) of Hg in copepods. During a depuration period of 5 d, the ke value of Hg(II) in the three exposure treatments ranged from 0.190-0.330 d-1, while the ke of MeHg was generally slower and ranged from 0.031-0.051 d-1. The exposure time significantly affected the efflux rates of Hg(II), i.e., a longer exposure time caused a higher retained Hg(II) burden in copepods, while no significant changes were observed in the MeHg treatments. The release routes of Hg in T. japonicus included excretion, feces production, and reproduction. In all the treatments, the excretion of Hg was the most important release route. The relative contribution of reproduction significantly increased in the MeHg exposure treatments, while the contribution of water excretion decreased with exposure time. Our study demonstrated that the retention of Hg(II) and the maternal transfer of MeHg were time-dependent and significantly affected by exposure time. Long-term exposure caused a decrease in the ke of Hg(II) and increase in the contribution of MeHg transfer to nauplii, thereby indicating an increasing risk of biological transmission of Hg under long-term exposure.