Abstract A new method is proposed for preconcentration and matrix separation of methylmercury prior to its determination by electrothermal atomic absorption spectrometry (ETAAS). Generation of methylmercury hydride (MeHgH) from a 5-ml solution is carried out in a closed vial and trapped onto an aqueous single drop (3-μl volume) containing Pd(II) or Pt(IV) (50 and 10 mg/l, respectively). The hydrogen evolved in the headspace (HS) after decomposition of sodium tetrahydroborate (III) injected for hydride generation caused the formation of finely dispersed Pd(0) or Pt(0) in the drop, which in turn, were responsible for the sequestration of MeHgH. A preconcentration factor of ca. 40 is achieved with both noble metals used as trapping agents. The limit of detection of methylmercury was 5 and 4 ng/ml (as Hg) with Pd(II) or Pt(IV) as trapping agents, and the precision expressed as relative standard deviation was about 7%. The preconcentration system was fully characterised through optimisation of the following variables: Pd(II) or Pt(IV) concentration in the drop, extraction time, pH of the medium, temperatures of both sample solution and drop, concentration of salt in the sample solution, sodium tetrahydroborate (III) concentration in the drop and stirring rate. The method has been successfully validated against two fish certified reference materials (CRM 464 tuna fish and CRM DORM-2 dogfish muscle) following selective extraction of methylmercury in 2 mol/l HCl medium.