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Mar Pollut Bull. 2006 Mar;52(3):301-19. Epub 2005 Oct 10.

Stable isotope and trace element status of subsistence-hunted bowhead and beluga whales in Alaska and gray whales in Chukotka.

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  • 1Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775-7000, USA.


Tissues of bowhead, beluga, and gray whales were analyzed for Ag, Cd, Cu, Se, Zn, THg and MeHg (belugas only). Delta15N and delta13C in muscle were used to estimate trophic position and feeding habitat, respectively. Trace element concentrations in tissues were significantly different among whale species. Hepatic Ag was higher in belugas than bowheads and gray whales. Gray whales had lower Cd concentrations in liver and kidney than bowhead and belugas and a sigmoid correlation of Cd with length was noted for all whales. Renal and hepatic Se and THg were higher in belugas than in baleen whales. The hepatic molar ratio of Se:THg exceeded 1:1 in all species and was negatively correlated to body length. Hepatic and renal Zn in subsistence-harvested gray whales was lower than concentrations for stranded whales. Se:THg molar ratios and tissue concentrations of Zn may show promise as potential indicators of immune status and animal health.

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