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Trace elements in tissues of sperm whales stranded along the Italian coast

Antonio Bellante, Daniela Salvagio Manta, Anna Traina, Giuseppa Buscaino, Gaspare Buffa, Marco Barra, Stella Tamburrino, Salvatore Mazzola, Mario Sprovieri
Chemistry in ecology 2013 v.29 no.5 pp. 404-414
Cephalopoda, Physeter macrocephalus, Stenella coeruleoalba, Tursiops truncatus, anthropogenic activities, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, coasts, copper, data collection, diet, heart, iron, kidneys, lead, lifestyle, liver, mercury, muscles, pollutants, selenium, zinc, Mediterranean Sea
Five sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) stranded along the Italian coast between 2007 and 2009 were analysed for concentrations of trace elements in the muscle, liver, kidney, lung, heart and skin. Essential elements (Zn, Cu, Fe, Cr, As, V and Se) show ranges of variability comparable with the limited data reported in the literature on this species and a homeostatic physiological control. Very low concentrations of nonessential elements (Hg, Cd and Pb) were detected in all tissues, suggesting a minor impact of these pollutants on the sperm whale populations of the Mediterranean Sea. This finding possibly reflects the pelagic lifestyle and deep-sea cephalopod diet of this group of giant cetaceans. In addition, this finding contrasts with the high levels of nonessential elements measured in many other species of cetaceans (e.g. Stenella coeruleoalba, Tursiops truncatus) stranded along Mediterranean coasts and which reflects significant coastal anthropogenic effects. The main result of this work is the compiled dataset which provides a preliminary target for conceptual understanding of the potential effects of open marine pollution on the Mediterranean sperm whale population.