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Distribution of trace elements in organs of six species of cetaceans from the Ligurian Sea (Mediterranean), and the relationship with stable carbon and nitrogen ratios

Publication Date
  • Bioaccumulation
  • Biogeography
  • Cadmium
  • Carbon
  • Chemical Analysis
  • Copper
  • Ecology
  • Iron
  • Isotopes
  • Lead
  • Liver
  • Manganese
  • Mercury
  • Nitrogen
  • Nitrogen Isotopes
  • Selenium
  • Species Diversity
  • Spleen
  • Stable Isotopes
  • Statistical Analysis
  • Trace Elements
  • Trophic Levels
  • Zinc
  • Cetacea [Whales
  • Dolphins And Porpoises]
  • Med
  • Ligurian Sea
  • Med
  • Western Mediterranean
  • Ecology


Mercury (total and organic), cadmium, lead, copper, iron, manganese, selenium and zinc concentrations were measured in different organs of 6 different cetacean species stranded in an area of extraordinary ecological interest (Cetaceans' Sanctuary of the Mediterranean Sea) along the coast of the Ligurian Sea (North-West Mediterranean). Stable-isotopes ratios of carbon (13C/12C) and nitrogen (15N/14N) were also measured in the muscle. A significant relationship exists between 15N/14N, mercury concentration and the trophic level. The distribution of essential and non-essential trace elements was studied on several organs, and a significant relationship between selenium and mercury, with a molar ratio close to 1, was found in the cetaceans' kidney, liver and spleen, regardless of their species. High selenium concentrations are generally associated with a low organic to total mercury ratio. While narrow ranges of concentrations were observed for essential elements in most organs, mercury and selenium concentrations are characterised by a wide range of variation. Bio-accumulation and bio-amplification processes in cetaceans can be better understood by comparing trace element concentrations with the stable-isotopes data.

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