The distribution of arsenic in the body tissues of wood mice and bank voles

B V Erry, M R Macnair, Andrew Alexander Meharg, R. F. Shore

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20 Citations (Scopus)


Arsenic is accumulated by free-living small mammals, but there is little information on the resultant concentrations in different tissues other than liver and kidney. Such information is important because the severity of toxicological effects may be related to the amount of arsenic accumulated in specific organs, and the availability of arsenic to predators is, in part, dependent on which tissues accumulate arsenic. The objective of this study was to quantify the arsenic concentrations and the percentage of the total body burden (%TBB) accumulated in different body tissues of free-living small mammals and to determine how these factors varied with severity of habitat contamination. Arsenic concentrations were measured in various tissues of wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) and bank voles (Clethrionomys glareolus) from a range of arsenic-contaminated sites in southwest Britain. Arsenic concentrations in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract (including contents), liver, kidneys, spleen, lung, femur, and fur of both species varied significantly between sites and were higher in mice and voles from heavily contaminated areas. Heart and brain arsenic concentrations did not vary with degree of environmental contamination. The GI tract and excised carcass contained roughly equal amounts of arsenic and, in sum, comprised 75-85% of the TBB on uncontaminated sites and 90-99% on contaminated sites. Although the excised carcass contains about half of the TBB, its importance in food-chain transfer of arsenic to predators may depend on the bioavailability of arsenic sequestered in fur. In contrast, the GI tract and its contents, provided that it is consumed, will always be a major transfer pathway for arsenic to predators, regardless of the severity of habitat contamination.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)569-576
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2005


  • Clethrionomys glareolus
  • small mammals
  • intracellular interaction
  • Apodemus sylvaticus
  • metabolic fate
  • mine wastes
  • SW England
  • cadmium
  • plants
  • contamination


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