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Ecological drivers of mercury accumulation in threespine stickleback fish

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dc.contributor.author Willacker, James J.
dc.date.accessioned 2014-10-13T17:00:32Z
dc.date.available 2016-04-18T12:00:09Z
dc.date.issued 2013-12
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/11122/4471
dc.description Thesis (Ph.D.) University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2013
dc.description.abstract I utilized the ecological diversity displayed in the Cook Inlet adaptive radiation of threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus species complex, hereafter 'stickleback') to examine the drivers of intra- and inter-population variation in total mercury (THg) concentrations. I examined the importance of sex, trophic position (TP), and habitat-specific foraging (measured as the proportion of the diet derived from benthic sources; a) in stickleback from Benka Lake, Alaska, a lake with both benthic and limnetic ecotypes. The results demonstrate that both sex and habitat-specific foraging are important determinants of THg concentrations in this threespine stickleback population. Specifically, male stickleback and stickleback foraging in limnetic habitats had higher THg concentrations than females or benthic foraging individuals. Further, I found that the relationships between THg concentration, TP, and a differed between the sexes such that TP and a were of approximately equal importance in female fish but TP was more important than a in male fish. I assessed the relative importance of these same factors in determining THg concentrations of stickleback from six lakes spanning a range of trophic ecologies. Across populations, I found sex and TP to be more important determinants of THg concentrations than reliance on benthic prey; however, there was substantial variation in the relative importance of these parameters in individual lakes. Across lakes I also found a positive correlation between THg concentrations in stickleback and the reliance on benthic prey, and my data suggest that differences in the bioavailability of Hg in the lakes were responsible for this relationship. I investigated temporal variation in the THg concentrations of Benka Lake stickleback. The temporal patterns observed in stickleback likely result from numerous physiological and ecological processes. I found that the importance and magnitude of these factors acting upon THg concentrations varied between sexes, ecotypes, or both, though the directions of the relationships were consistent across groups. Despite this variation, TP was consistently the most important determinant of Hg concentrations. Collectively, the results of this dissertation demonstrate that the ecological factors driving THg concentrations in stickleback are complex, likely integrate multiple confounding interactions, and often vary by sex, ecotype, and population (lake). To improve our understanding of the mechanisms underlying Hg bioaccumulation, future research should utilize experimental studies and larger numbers of wild populations to examine the independent effects of these variables within the context of varying physiologies and ecologies. en_US
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.title Ecological drivers of mercury accumulation in threespine stickleback fish en_US
dc.type Thesis
dc.type.degree phd
dc.identifier.department Department of Biology and Wildlife
dc.contributor.chair O'Hara, Todd
dc.contributor.chair von Hippel, Frank
dc.contributor.committee Buck, Loren
dc.contributor.committee Welker, Jeffrey
dc.contributor.committee Wipfli, Mark


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