Investigation of mercury concentrations in fur of phocid seals using stable isotopes as tracers of trophic levels and geographical regions

Abstract : Recent studies have shown that the complementary analysis of mercury (Hg) concentrations and stable isotopic ratios of nitrogen (δ15N) and carbon (δ13C) can be useful for investigating the trophic influence on the Hg exposure and accumulation in marine top predators. In this study, we propose to evaluate the interspecies variability of Hg concentrations in phocids from polar areas and to compare Hg bioaccumulation between both hemispheres. Mercury concentrations, δ15N and δ13C were measured in fur from 85 individuals representing 7 phocidae species, a Ross seal (Ommatophoca rossii), Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii), crabeater seals (Lobodon carcinophaga), harbour seals (Phoca vitulina), grey seals (Halichoerus grypus), ringed seals (Phoca hispida), and a bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus), from Greenland, Denmark and Antarctica. Our results showed a positive correlation between Hg concentrations and δ15N values among all individuals. Seals from the Northern ecosystems displayed greater Hg concentrations, δ15N and δ13C values than those from the Southern waters. Those geographical differences in Hg and stable isotopes values were likely due to higher environmental Hg concentrations and somewhat greater number of steps in Arctic food webs. Moreover, dissimilarities in feeding habits among species were shown through δ15N and δ13C analysis, resulting in an important interspecific variation in fur Hg concentrations. A trophic segregation was observed between crabeater seals and the other species, resulting from the very specific diet of krill of this species and leading to the lowest observed Hg concentrations.
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Polar Biology, Springer Verlag, 2011, 34 (9), pp.1411-1420. 〈10.1007/s00300-011-0996-z〉
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Aurore Aubail, Jonas Teilmann, Rune Dietz, Frank Rigét, Tero Harkonen, et al.. Investigation of mercury concentrations in fur of phocid seals using stable isotopes as tracers of trophic levels and geographical regions. Polar Biology, Springer Verlag, 2011, 34 (9), pp.1411-1420. 〈10.1007/s00300-011-0996-z〉. 〈hal-00611657〉

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