Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science

Degree Name

Marine Science

First Advisor

Amy C. Hirons, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Dimitrios G. Giarikos, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Michael Adkesson, DVM


Trace elements, Peruvian fur seal, South American sea lion, Vibrissae, Serum, Milk, Maternal transfer


Two sympatric pinniped species, Peruvian fur seals (PFS; Arctocephalus australis unnamed ssp.) and South American sea lions (SASL; Otaria byronia), reside in highly productive waters off the coast of Peru. These apex predators have experienced dramatic population fluctuations linked to both natural and anthropogenic events. As Peru’s mining and agriculture industry increase, it is important to monitor potential effects on the vulnerable ecosystem. Fifteen trace elements in PFS and SASL vibrissae (whiskers), serum, and milk collected between 2009 and 2019 were analyzed via inductively coupled plasma mass spectroscopy (ICP-MS): aluminum (Al), arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), cobalt (Co), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), lead (Pb), manganese (Mn), mercury (Hg), nickel (Ni), selenium (Se), tin (Sn), vanadium (V), zinc (Zn). Vibrissae contained the highest average concentrations of every element except As. Milk had the highest mean As concentration (0.41 µg/g) and overall, As concentrations increased from 2011 to 2019 in vibrissae and milk. Male SASL were younger than PFS males and expected to have lower element concentrations; however, SASL male vibrissae contained average Cd concentrations almost 5x higher than PFS males (1.31, 0.27 μg/g, respectively; p