Title: Methyl mercury and stable isotopes of nitrogen reveal that a terrestrial spider has a diet of emergent aquatic insects.
Authors: Speir, Shannon L; Chumchal, Matthew M; Drenner, Ray W; Cocke, W Gary; Lewis, Megan E; Whitt, Holly J
Published In Environ Toxicol Chem, (2014 Nov)
Abstract: Terrestrial spiders transfer methyl mercury (MeHg) to terrestrial consumers such as birds, but how spiders become contaminated with MeHg is not well understood. In the present study, the authors used stable isotopes of nitrogen in combination with MeHg to determine the source of MeHg to terrestrial long-jawed orb weaver spiders (Tetragnatha sp). The authors collected spiders and a variety of other aquatic and terrestrial taxa from 10 shallow ponds in north Texas, USA. Based on MeHg concentrations and stable nitrogen isotope ratios, the authors identified distinct aquatic- and terrestrial-based food chains. Long-jawed orb weaver spiders belonged to the aquatic-based food chain, indicating that they are exposed to MeHg through their consumption of emergent aquatic insects. Additionally, the present study suggests that ecologists can use stable isotopes of nitrogen (δ(15) N) in conjunction with MeHg speciation analysis to distinguish between aquatic and terrestrial food chains.
PubMed ID: 25077687
MeSH Terms: Animals; Diet; Ecology; Ecosystem; Food Chain*; Insecta; Methylmercury Compounds/analysis*; Nitrogen Isotopes/analysis*; Nitrogen/analysis*; Nitrogen/chemistry; Spiders*; Texas