Mercury (Hg) bioaccumulates in the tissues of organismsand biomagnifies within food-webs. Graywolves (Canis lupus) in Alaska primarily acquire Hg through diet; therefore, comparing the extent of Hg exposure inwolves, in conjunction with stable isotopes, from interior and coastal regions of Alaska offers important insight into their feeding ecology. Liver, kidney, and skeletal muscle samples from 162 graywolves were analyzed for total mercury (THg) concentrations and stable isotopic signatures (δ13C, δ15N, and δ34S).Median hepatic THg concentrations were significantly higher in wolves with coastal access compared to wolves from interior Alaska. Stable isotope ratios, in conjunction with THg concentrations, provide strong evidence that coastal wolves are utilizing marine prey representing several trophic levels. The utilization of cross-ecosystem food resources by coastal wolves is clearly contributing to increased THg exposure, and may ultimately have negative health implications for these animals.
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Mercury in gray wolves (Canis lupus) in Alaska: Increased exposure through consumption of marine prey