Polar Biology

, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 311-320

First online:

Mercury, cadmium, zinc, copper and selenium in harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) from West Greenland

  • Paul Paludan-MüllerAffiliated withGreenland Environmental Research Institute
  • , Carsten Thyge AggerAffiliated withGreenland Environmental Research Institute
  • , Rune DietzAffiliated withGreenland Environmental Research Institute
  • , Carl Christian KinzeAffiliated withZoological Museum

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Muscle, liver, kidney and skin samples taken from 78 harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) were analysed for mercury, cadmium, zinc, copper and selenium. The highest concentrations of mercury were found in the liver (geometric mean 4.17 μg/g wet weight), whilst the highest concentrations of cadmium were in the kidney (g.m. 13.2 μg/g ww). The levels of cadmium were more than ten times higher than in harbour porpoises from the North Sea and the British NW coast, whilst the mercury levels were about the same. The importance of the cadmium content in the prey is discussed, but this attempt did not revealed the differences. Very high levels of zinc (g.m. 359 μg/g ww) and selenium (g.m. 28.6 μg/g ww) were found in skin samples, respectively seven and ten times more than in liver. A significant correlation was found between age and the level of mercury and cadmium in all organs. The concentration of mercury and selenium in liver and skin samples and of cadmium and zinc in kidney samples were highly correlated.