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Trace element concentrations in liver of 16 species of cetaceans stranded on Pacific Islands from 1997 through 2013



Angela M. Hansen, Colleen E. Bryan Sallee, Kristi West, Brenda Jensen


The impacts of anthropogenic contaminants on marine ecosystems are a concern worldwide. Anthropogenic activities can enrich trace elements in marine biota to concentrations that may negatively impact organism health. Exposure to elevated concentrations of trace elements is considered a contributing factor in marine mammal population declines. Hawai'i is an increasingly important geographic location for global monitoring, yet trace element concentrations have not been quantified in Hawaiian cetaceans, and there is little trace element data for Pacific cetaceans. This study measured trace elements (Cr, Mn, Cu, Zn, As, Se, Sr, Cd, Sn, Hg, and Pb) in liver tissue of 16 species of cetaceans that stranded on U.S. Pacific Islands from 1997-2013, using high resolution inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (HR-ICP-MS) (n = 31), and direct mercury analysis atomic absorption spectrometry (DMA-AAS) (n = 43). Concentration ranges (μg/g wet mass fraction) for non-essential trace elements such as Cd (0.0031-58.93) and Hg (0.0192-1571.75) were much greater than essential trace element such as Mn (0.590-17.30) and Zn (14.72-245.38). Differences were found among age classes in Cu, Zn, Sn, Hg, and Se concentrations. The highest concentrations of Se, Cd, Sn, Hg, and Pb were found in one adult female false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) at concentrations that are known to affect health in other mammal research. The results of this study establish initial trace element concentration ranges for Pacific cetaceans in the Hawaiian Islands region, provide insights into the dietary contaminant exposure of these marine mammals, and contribute to a greater understanding of anthropogenic impacts in the Pacific Ocean.
Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology


Cetacean, Guam, Hawaii, Liver, Marine Mammal, Mercury, Saipan, Selenium, Trace elements


Hansen, A. , Bryan Sallee, C. , West, K. and Jensen, B. (2016), Trace element concentrations in liver of 16 species of cetaceans stranded on Pacific Islands from 1997 through 2013, Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, [online], (Accessed May 30, 2024)


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Created December 31, 2015, Updated October 12, 2021