A Global Overview of Exposure Levels and Biological Effects of Trace Elements in Penguins

  • Winfred Espejo
  • José E. CelisEmail author
  • Daniel GonzÃlez-Acuña
  • Andiranel Banegas
  • Ricardo Barra
  • Gustavo Chiang
Part of the Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology book series (RECT, volume 245)


Trace elements are chemical contaminants that can be present almost anywhere on the planet. The study of trace elements in biotic matrices is a topic of great relevance for the implications that it can have on wildlife and human health. Penguins are very useful, since they live exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere and represent about 90% of the biomass of birds of the Southern Ocean. The levels of trace elements (dry weight) in different biotic matrices of penguins were reviewed here. Maps of trace element records in penguins were included. Data on exposure and effects of trace elements in penguins were collected from the literature. The most reported trace elements in penguins are aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, copper, zinc, and manganese. Trace elements have been measured in 11 of the 18 species of penguins. The most studied biotic matrices are feathers and excreta. Most of the studies have been performed in Antarctica and subantarctic Islands. Little is known about the interaction among metals, which could provide better knowledge about certain mechanisms of detoxification in penguins. Future studies of trace elements in penguins must incorporate other metals such as vanadium, cobalt, nickel, and chromium. Data of metals in the species such as Eudyptes pachyrhynchus, Eudyptes moseleyi, Eudyptes sclateri, Eudyptes robustus, Eudyptes schlegeli, Spheniscus demersus, Spheniscus mendiculus, and Megadyptes antipodes are urged. It is important to correlate levels of metals in different biotic matrices with the effects on different species and in different geographic locations.



Winfred E. Espejo is a graduate student at the Universidad de Concepción, Chile, who is sponsored by the CONICYT-Chile to pursue PhD research. This study was financially supported by the project INACH RG 09-14 (J. Celis), INACH T31-11 (G. Chiang), and FONDAP CRHIAM 15 13 0015 (R. Barra). Thanks also are given to project 216.153.025-1.0 of the Research Division of the Universidad de Concepción. Many thanks are also given to Dr. Evelyn Habit, Liseth Chaura, and peer reviewers for their useful suggestions. Finally, the authors also thank Diane Haughney for the English revision.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Winfred Espejo
    • 1
  • José E. Celis
    • 2
    Email author
  • Daniel GonzÃlez-Acuña
    • 2
  • Andiranel Banegas
    • 1
    • 3
  • Ricardo Barra
    • 1
  • Gustavo Chiang
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Aquatic Systems, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, EULA-Chile CentreUniversidad de ConcepciónConcepciónChile
  2. 2.Department of Animal Science, Faculty of Veterinary SciencesUniversidad de ConcepciónChillÃnChile
  3. 3.Department of Sciences Biology Unit, Danlí Technological CampusUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de HondurasDanlíHonduras
  4. 4.Melimoyu Ecosystem Research InstituteSantiagoChile

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