Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America ( IF 9.412 ) Pub Date : 2020-11-24 , DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2012773117 Joel D. Blum, Jeffrey C. Drazen, Marcus W. Johnson, Brian N. Popp, Laura C. Motta, Alan J. Jamieson
Mercury isotopic compositions of amphipods and snailfish from deep-sea trenches reveal information on the sources and transformations of mercury in the deep oceans. Evidence for methyl-mercury subjected to photochemical degradation in the photic zone is provided by odd-mass independent isotope values (Δ199Hg) in amphipods from the Kermadec Trench, which average 1.57‰ (±0.14, n = 12, SD), and amphipods from the Mariana Trench, which average 1.49‰ (±0.28, n = 13). These values are close to the average value of 1.48‰ (±0.34, n = 10) for methyl-mercury in fish that feed at ∼500-m depth in the central Pacific Ocean. Evidence for variable contributions of mercury from rainfall is provided by even-mass independent isotope values (Δ200Hg) in amphipods that average 0.03‰ (±0.02, n = 12) for the Kermadec and 0.07‰ (±0.01, n = 13) for the Mariana Trench compared to the rainfall average of 0.13 (±0.05, n = 8) in the central Pacific. Mass-dependent isotope values (δ202Hg) are elevated in amphipods from the Kermadec Trench (0.91 ±0.22‰, n = 12) compared to the Mariana Trench (0.26 ±0.23‰, n = 13), suggesting a higher level of microbial demethylation of the methyl-mercury pool before incorporation into the base of the foodweb. Our study suggests that mercury in the marine foodweb at ∼500 m, which is predominantly anthropogenic, is transported to deep-sea trenches primarily in carrion, and then incorporated into hadal (6,000-11,000-m) food webs. Anthropogenic Hg added to the surface ocean is, therefore, expected to be rapidly transported to the deepest reaches of the oceans.