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Talanta. 2005 Mar 15;65(5):1326-34. doi: 10.1016/j.talanta.2004.09.009.

Analysis of fish otoliths by electrothermal vaporization inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry: aspects of precipitating otolith calcium with hydrofluoric acid for trace element determination.

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  • 1National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory, 74 Magruder Road, Highlands, NJ 07732, USA.


A method is developed for determination of trace elements, including Ag, As, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Mn, Ni, Se, Tl and Zn, in fish otoliths by electrothermal vaporization inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ETV-ICP-MS). Hydrofluoric acid was used to precipitate calcium resulting from acid dissolution of otolith calcium carbonate. Initial acidity of the sample solution influenced the precipitation efficiency of calcium fluoride. Up to 99.5% of Ca was precipitated in solutions that contained less than 2% (v/v) HNO(3). Recoveries of the elements obtained from spiked artificial otolith solutions were between 90 and 103%. Stabilization of the elements within the ETV cell was achieved with 0.3mug Pd/0.2mug Rh chemical modifier that also afforded optimum sensitivity for multielement determination. The method was validated by the analysis of a fish otolith reference material (CRM) of emperor snapper, and then applied to the determination of the trace elements in otoliths of several fish species captured in Raritan Bay, New Jersey. Results indicated that fish physiology and biological processes could influence the levels of Cu, Mn, Se and Zn in the otoliths of fish inhabiting a similar aqueous environment. Otolith concentrations of Cr and Ni did not show any significant differences among different species. Concentrations for Ag, As, Cd, Co and Tl were also not significantly different, but were very low indicating low affinity of otolith calcium carbonate to these elements.

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