Polar Biology

, Volume 10, Issue 7, pp 529–539 | Cite as

Zinc, cadmium, mercury and selenium in minke whales, belugas and narwhals from West Greenland

  • Carsten Thye Hansen
  • Christian Overgaard Nielsen
  • Rune Dietz
  • Martin Munk Hansen


Samples of muscle, liver and kidney from 24 minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), 43 belugas (Delphinapterus leucas), and 98 narwhals (Monodon monoceros) were analyzed for zinc, cadmium, mercury, and selenium. Highly significant age accumulation of mercury was found. A lower level of significance of age accumulation of cadmium in belugas and narwhals is probably due to the fact that some of the highest cadmium concentrations are in subadults and young adults. The maximum concentrations of cadmium and mercury are very high: 1.68, 73.7, and 125 μg cadmium, and 9.88, 42.8, and 4.61 μg mercury per g wet weight of narwhal muscle, liver and kidney, respectively. The cadmium concentrations are correlated in the three organs, as are mercury and to a lesser extent selenium concentrations. The concentrations of mercury and selenium in liver are highly correlated.


Zinc Mercury Cadmium Selenium Young Adult 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Bligh EG, Armstrong FAJ (1971) Marine mercury pollution in Canada. Int Council Explor Sea ICES CM 1971/E:34Google Scholar
  2. Christensen I (1981) Age determination of minke whales, Balaenoptera acutorostrata, from laminated structures in the tympanic bullae. Rep Int Whal Commn 31:245–253Google Scholar
  3. Drescher HE, Harms U, Huschenbeth E (1977) Organochlorines and heavy metals in the harbour seal Phoca vitulina from the German North Sea coast. Mar Biol 41:99–106Google Scholar
  4. Goren AD, Brodie, PF, Spotte S, Ray GC, Kaufman HW, Gwinnett AJ, Sciubba JJ, Buck JD (1987) Growth layer groups (GLGs) in the teeth of an adult belukha whale (Delphinapterus leucas) of known age: evidence for two annual layers. Mar Mam Sci 3:14–21Google Scholar
  5. Hay KA (1980) Age determination of the narwhal, Monodon monoceros L. Rep Int Whal Commn (Special Issue 3): 119–132Google Scholar
  6. Honda K, Yamamoto Y, Kalo H, Tatsukawa R (1987) Heavy metal accumulations and their recent changes in southern minke whales Balaenoptera acutorostrata. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 16:209–216Google Scholar
  7. Imperial Oil Ltd (1978) Heavy metals project Mackenzie delta and estuary. Beak Consultants, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  8. Johansen P, Kapel FO, Kraul I (1980) Heavy metals and organochlorines in marine mammals from Greenland. Int Council Explor Sea ICES CM 1980/E:32, 15 ppGoogle Scholar
  9. Koeman JH, Peeters WHM, Koudstaal-Hol CHM, Tjioe PS, de Goeij JJM (1973) Mercury-selenium correlations in marine mammals. Nature 245:385–386Google Scholar
  10. Koeman JH, van de Yen WSM, de Goeij JJM, Tjioe PS, van Haaften JL (1975) Mercury and selenium in marine mammals and birds. Sci Total Environ 3:279–287Google Scholar
  11. Larsen F, Kapel FO (1982) Norwegian minke whaling off West Greenland, 1976–80 and biological studies of West Greenland minke whales. Rep Int Whal Commn 32:263–274Google Scholar
  12. Nielsen CO, Dietz R (1990) Distributional pattern of zinc, cadmium, mercury and selenium in livers of hooded seal (Cystophura cristata). Biol Trace Elem Res 24:61–71Google Scholar
  13. Sergeant DE, Armstrong FAJ (1973) Mercury in seals from Eastern Canada. J Fish Res Board Can 30:843–846Google Scholar
  14. Smith TG, Armstrong FAJ (1978) Mercury and selenium in ringed and bearded seal tissues from Arctic Canada. Arctic 31:75–84Google Scholar
  15. Stewart BS, Leatherwood S (1985) Minke whale — Balaenoptera acutorostrata. In: Ridgway SH, Harrison R (eds) Handbook of marine mammals, vol 3. Academic Press, London, pp 91–136Google Scholar
  16. Wagemann R, Muir DCG (1984) Concentrations of heavy metals and organochlorines in marine mammals of Northern waters: Overview and evaluation. Can Tech Rep Fish Aquat Sci 1279, 97 ppGoogle Scholar
  17. Wagemann R, Snow NB, Lutz A, Scott DP (1983) Heavy metals in tissues and organs of the narwhal (Monodon monoceros). Can J Fish Aquat Sci 40 (Suppl 2):206–214Google Scholar
  18. Zar JH (1984) Biostatistical analysis, 2nd edn. Prentice-Hall Int Inc, Englewood Cliffs, New JerseyGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carsten Thye Hansen
    • 1
  • Christian Overgaard Nielsen
    • 1
  • Rune Dietz
    • 1
  • Martin Munk Hansen
    • 1
  1. 1.Greenland Environmental Research InstituteCopenhagen NDenmark

Personalised recommendations