Evaluating hair as a predictor of blood mercury: the influence of ontogenetic phase and life history in pinnipeds

Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
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Abstract

Mercury (Hg) biomonitoring of pinnipeds increasingly utilizes nonlethally collected tissues such as hair and blood. The relationship between total Hg concentrations ([THg]) in these tissues is not well understood for marine mammals, but it can be important for interpretation of tissue concentrations with respect to ecotoxicology and biomonitoring. We examined [THg] in blood and hair in multiple age classes of four pinniped species. For each species, we used paired blood and hair samples to quantify the ability of [THg] in hair to predict [THg] in blood at the time of sampling and examined the influence of varying ontogenetic phases and life history of the sampled animals. Overall, we found that the relationship between [THg] in hair and blood was affected by factors including age class, weaning status, growth, and the time difference between hair growth and sample collection. Hair [THg] was moderately to strongly predictive of current blood [THg] for adult female Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus), adult female California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), and adult harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), whereas hair [THg] was poorly predictive or not predictive (different times of year) of blood [THg] for adult northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris). Within species, except for very young pups, hair [THg] was a weaker predictor of blood [THg] for prereproductive animals than for adults likely due to growth, variability in foraging behavior, and transitions between ontogenetic phases. Our results indicate that the relationship between hair [THg] and blood [THg] in pinnipeds is variable and that ontogenetic phase and life history should be considered when interpreting [THg] in these tissues.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Evaluating hair as a predictor of blood mercury: the influence of ontogenetic phase and life history in pinnipeds
Series title Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
DOI 10.1007/s00244-015-0174-3
Volume 70
Issue 1
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Springer
Publisher location New York, NY
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center, Contaminant Biology Program
Description 18 p.
First page 28
Last page 45
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N