Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 182, Issue 1–4, pp 571–585 | Cite as

Biogenic and toxic elements in feathers, eggs, and excreta of Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua ellsworthii) in the Antarctic

  • Roumiana Metcheva
  • Lilyana Yurukova
  • Svetla E. Teodorova


Feathers, eggs, and excreta of Gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua ellsworthii), adults, from Livingston Island (South Shetlands), chosen as bioindicators, were used to test the quality of the Antarctic environment. Sex was not examined. The bioaccumulations of toxic trace elements (Cd, Pb, Al, and As), essential trace elements (Fe, Cu, Zn, Mn, Cr, V, Ni, and Sr), and major essential elements (Na, K, Mg, Ca, P, and S) were established. For the first time data about the element contents in Gentoo eggs is provided. Two hypotheses were tested: (1) there are differences in the metal levels among eggs and feathers; and (2) the element concentrations are highest in the excreta. The hypotheses were confirmed at 0.01–0.05 confidence levels. The concentrations of almost all trace elements were significantly higher in the feathers compared to those in the eggs. The following values of the concentrations ratio Fe/Zn were obtained: in the embryo, Fe/Zn = 1.5, and in the feathers, Fe/Zn = 0.5. The concentration of Pb in the embryo and excreta was below 0.4 μg/g, and Cd and As in eggs were below 0.05 and 0.3 μg/g, respectively. This indicates that there is no toxic risk for penguin offspring. Arsenic could be considered as a potential pollutant for Antarctic soil due to its relative high concentration in excreta, 5.13 μg/g. The present data (year 2007) were compared to the data for years 2002 and 2003. No trend of toxic element contamination was established. The concentrations of Pb, Cd, and As in representatives from the top of the food chain in the Antarctic (the present study) and Arctic (literature data) were compared. The data supports the hypothesis that there is an abnormality in cadmium levels in polar marine areas. Regarding Pb, the South Shetlands displayed 3-fold lower level compared to the Aleutians.


Heavy metals Essential elements Gentoo penguin Feathers Eggs Excreta Antarctic 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roumiana Metcheva
    • 1
  • Lilyana Yurukova
    • 2
  • Svetla E. Teodorova
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of ZoologyBulgarian Academy of SciencesSofiaBulgaria
  2. 2.Institute of BotanyBulgarian Academy of SciencesSofiaBulgaria
  3. 3.Institute for Nuclear Research and Nuclear EnergyBulgarian Academy of SciencesSofiaBulgaria

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