Possible link between Hg and Cd accumulation in the brain of long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas)

Z Gajdoeschova, A Brownlow, NT Cottin, M Fernandes, FL Read, DS Urgast, A Raab, J Feldmann, EM Krupp

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    The bioaccumulation of metals was investigated by analysis of liver, kidney,muscle and brain tissue of a pod of 21 long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) of all ages stranded in Scotland, UK. The results are the first to report cadmium (Cd) passage through the blood–brain barrier of pilot whales and provide a comprehensive study of the long-term (up to 35 years) mammalian exposure to the environmental pollutants. Additionally, linear accumulation of mercury (Hg) was observed in all studied tissues, whereas for Cd this was only observed in the liver. Total Hg concentration above the upper neurochemical threshold was found in the sub-adult and adult brains and methylmercury (MeHg) of 2.2 mg/kg was found in the brain of one individual. Inter-elemental analysis showed significant positive correlations of Hg with selenium (Se) and Cd with Se in all studied tissues. Furthermore, differences in the elemental concentrations in the liver and brain tissueswere found between juvenile, sub-adult and adult groups. The highest concentrations of manganese, iron, zinc, Se, Hg and MeHgwere noted in the livers,whereas Cd predominantly accumulated in the kidneys. High concentrations of Hgand Cd in the tissues of pilot whales presented in this study reflect ever increasing toxic stress on marine mammals. © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)407 - 413
    Number of pages7
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    Publication statusFirst published - 31 Dec 2015


    • Bioaccumulation
    • Blood–brain barrier
    • Marine mammals
    • Scotland
    • Trace elements


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