, Volume 64, Issue 3, pp 569-581

Metals in Herring and Great Black-Backed Gulls from the New York Bight: the Role of Salt Gland in Excretion

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We examined the tissue distribution ofmetals in the herring (Larus argentatus) andgreat black-backed (Larus marinus) gullsobtained near the John F. Kennedy Airport, on LongIsland, New York, to determine whether there werespecies differences and whether levels in the saltgland were sufficiently high to suggest that thisorgan may be serving an excretory function. For mostorgans, herring gulls had significantly higher levelsof lead (except for liver), but significantly lowerlevels of mercury (except in the salt gland) thangreat black-backed gulls. For all metals exceptarsenic, there were significant differences inconcentrations among tissues for both species. Greatblack-backed gulls had much higher concentrations ofcadmium in kidney than in any other organ and this wasmuch higher than the level in herring gulls; herringgulls had much higher levels than black-backs of leadin salt glands. For both species, concentrations inkidney, liver and salt gland were generally higherthan in heart muscle or pectoral muscle. For herringgulls, the concentrations of all metals in the saltglands were not significantly different from the organwith the highest values (liver or kidney). For greatblack-backed gulls this was true only for lead,selenium, chromium, and mercury. We examined theratio of metals in all organs to the liverconcentration. Very low ratios (<0.25) were foundfor lead in heart and muscle of both species, andselenium in heart and muscle of herring gulls. Highratios (>2) included lead (2.75:1) and cadmium(14.3:1) in kidney of black-backs. In greatblack-backs the kidney:salt gland ratio was >1.5:1except for mercury (1.31:1) and chromium (0.83:1),while in herring gulls all ratios were between 0.7 and1.2, except for mercury (0.46:1), reflecting therelatively higher concentrations of metals in the saltgland of this species. We suggest that most heavymetals seem to be concentrating in the salt glands ofgulls, within an order of magnitude of the kidneyconcentration, and that salt glands may be serving asignificant excretory function for these cations.