Bioaccumulation of vanadium and other trace metals in livers of Alaskan cetaceans and pinnipeds

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Concentrations for 38 elements are routinely measured in the marine mammal liver tissues archived in the National Biomonitoring Specimen Bank (NBSB). Results show that hepatic concentrations of vanadium, selenium, silver, cadmium, and mercury are positively correlated with age for beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) and of vanadium, selenium, cadmium, and mercury with length for ringed seals (Phoca hispada). Many researchers have reported linear correlations of hepatic selenium, cadmium, and mercury with marine mammal age; however, there is only one other report of a linear correlation of hepatic vanadium with marine mammal age. Vanadium levels are at or below detection limits (⩽0.01 μg/g) in liver tissues of U.S. east coast marine mammals from the NBSB but are present at levels ranging from 0.02 to 1.2 μg/g of wet weight in the tissues of Alaskan marine mammals. Although only three bearded seal (Eriganthus barbatus) and three bow-head whale (Balaena mysticetus) liver samples have been analyzed, hepatic vanadium levels also increased with animal size for these species. The presence of relatively high levels of vanadium in the livers of these Alaskan animals may reflect a unique dietary source of vanadium, a unique geochemical source of vanadium, or anthropogenic input to the Alaskan marine environment.