A laboratory bioassay determined the relative contribution of various pathways of Ag, Cd and Zn bioaccumulation in the marine polychaete Neanthes arenaceodentata exposed to moderately contaminated sediments. Juvenile worms were exposed for 25 d to experimental sediments containing 5 different reactive sulfide (acid volatile sulfides, AVS) concentrations (1 to 30 ??mol g-1), but with constant Ag, Cd, and Zn concentrations of 0.1, 0.1 and 7 ??mol g-1, respectively. The sediments were supplemented with contaminated food (TetraMin??) containing 3 levels of Ag-Cd-Zn (uncontaminated, 1?? or 5??1 metal concentrations in the contaminated sediment). The results suggest that bioaccumulation of Ag, Cd and Zn in the worms occurred predominantly from ingestion of contaminated sediments and contaminated supplementary food. AVS or dissolved metals (in porewater and overlying water) had a minor effect on bioaccumulation of the 3 metals in most of the treatments. The contribution to uptake from the dissolved source was most important in the most oxic sediments, with maximum contributions of 8% for Ag, 30% for Cd and 20% for Zn bioaccumulation. Sediment bioassays where uncontaminated supplemental food is added could seriously underestimate metal exposures in an equilibrated system; N. arenaceodentata feeding on uncontaminated food would be exposed to 40-60% less metal than if the food source was equilibrated (as occurs in nature). Overall, the results show that pathways of metal exposure are dynamically linked in contaminated sediments and shift as external geochemical characteristics and internal biological attributes vary.