Trace elements in tissues of white-chinned petrels (Procellaria aequinoctialis) from Kerguelen waters, Southern Indian Ocean
The use of seabirds to assess marine contamination by trace elements in areas remote from pollutant emission points has already been done at various latitudes. Nevertheless, little information is available concerning the Southern Indian Ocean. Determining the contaminants levels, there appears necessary not only due to several deleterious effects reported in literature, but also as previous studies have highlighted elevated concentrations of cadmium (Cd) and mercury (Hg) in mollusks, crustaceans and fish. Within this context, the white-chinned petrel appears as a key species due to its lifespan, diet and trophic position. Thirty-three accidentally killed (collision with lights/bycatch in longline vessels) individuals collected in Kerguelen waters were analysed for Cd, copper (Cu), Hg, selenium (Se) and zinc (Zn) in liver, kidney, pectoral muscle, feathers and for mature males, testis. Elevated Hg concentrations (average 58.4 μg g−1 dw in liver) are likely due to the presence of mesopelagic prey in the diet of Procellaria aequinoctialis. Cd concentrations (average of 65.7 μg g−1 dw in kidney) can be attributed to a high level of fisheries offal consumption, as well as crustacean and squid ingestion. Correlation of Hg with Se indicates its detoxification by co-precipitation, and correlation of Cd with Zn suggests its displacement by Cd on metallothioneins binding sites. This work also indirectly confirms ecological data (range and diet composition) from the wintering period of the species, which is rather scarce. Seasonal diet change and moulting accounted more for the obtained results than sex of the birds.
KeywordsHeavy metals Seabirds Procellariiformes Southern Ocean Sub-Antarctic Islands
The authors thank the fieldworkers who helped with collecting the petrels. The present work was supported financially and logistically by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (programme POLARTOP, O. Chastel), the Institut Polaire Français Paul Emile Victor (IPEV, programme no. 109, H. Weimerskirch) and the Terres Australes et Antarctiques Françaises (TAAF). C.V.Z. Cipro was supported financially through a post-doctoral grant from the University of La Rochelle and the CNRS (French acronym for National Council of Scientific Research).
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