A mild, efficient and convenient extraction method of using 2-mercaptoethanol contained extractant solution combined with an incubator shaker for determination of mercury species in biological samples by HPLC-ICP-MS has been developed. The effects of the concentration of 2-mercaptoethanol, the composition of the extractant solution and the shaking time on the efficiency of mercury extraction were evaluated. The optimization experiments indicated that the quantitative extraction of mercury species from biological samples could be achieved by using 0.1% (v/v) HCl, 0.1% (v/v) 2-mercapoethanol and 0.15% (m/v) KCl extractant solution in an incubator shaker for shaking overnight (about 12h) at room temperature. The established method was validated by analysis of various biological certified reference materials, including NRCC DOLT-3 (dogfish liver), IAEA 436 (tuna fish), IAEA MA-B-3/TM (garfish filet), IAEA MA-M-2/TM (mussel tissue), GBW 08193 (bovine liver) and GBW 08572 (prawn). The analytical results of the reference materials were in good agreement with the certified or reference values of both methyl and total mercury, indicating that no distinguishable transformation between mercury species had occurred during the extraction and determination procedures. The limit of detection (LOD) for methyl (CH(3)Hg(+)) and inorganic mercury (Hg(2+)) by the method are both as 0.2microg L(-1). The relative standard deviation (R.S.D.s) for CH(3)Hg(+) and Hg(2+) are 3.0% and 5.8%, respectively. The advantages of the developed extraction method are that (1) it is easy to operate in HPLC-ICP-MS for mercury species determination since the extracted solution can be directly injected into the HPLC column without pH adjustment and (2) the memory effect of mercury in the ICP-MS measurement system can be reduced.