We examined the ontogenetic dynamics of mercury accumulation in sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) from the Connecticut River, USA. Mercury concentrations in eggs (mean 84 ng??g-1 wet weight) were lowest of all life stages and correlated to concentrations in females. There was a higher rate of maternal transfer of mercury to eggs compared with teleosts. Ammocoetes had high mercury concentrations for their trophic level (e.g., mean of age-4 ammocoetes 492 ng??g-1 wet weight). A further investigation of four streams showed that ammocoetes reflected the level of contamination in their nursery streams. Concentrations of mercury decreased during metamorphosis from ammocoete to adult. Mercury concentrations in adults ranged from 83 to 942 ng??g-1 wet weight and, unlike teleosts, showed no relation to sex, length, or weight. We provide evidence from stable isotope analyses that this high variability is due to feeding ecology. There are fundamental differences in mercury accumulation between sea lamprey and teleosts. ?? 2006 NRC Canada.