Capstone Title

The Effect of Mercury on Odontocetes and Their Importance as Marine Ecosystem Indicators

Defense Date

4-22-2016

Document Type

Capstone

Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

Curtis Burney

Second Advisor

Donald McCorquodale

Abstract

Seventeen odontocete cetaceans were assessed globally regarding mercury and selenium concentrations, as well as stable isotope ratios (δ13C and δ15N). Tissue samples from the liver, muscle, brain, kidney, and blubber were analyzed in relation to intra-specific, inter-specific, and geographic locations. Emphasis was placed on preferred prey for each species in order to associate total mercury levels and stable isotope δ15N in relevance to mercury biomagnification and trophic position. Overall, odontocete liver retained the highest mercury concentration, 333.95 (total average μg kg-1 wet wt); while the brain retained the lowest, 1.31 (total average μg kg-1 wet wt). Geographically speaking, odontocetes in Greenland and along the Mediterranean coast exhibited higher mercury concentrations, while lower concentrations were found to reside in the British Isles and surprisingly North Pacific Ocean near Japan. There were no significant correlations between prey Hg concentrations and δ15N in odontocete livers.

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