In this study, we evaluated concentrations of twelve essential and non-essential elements (As, Cd, Co, Cu, Pb, Mg, Mn, Hg, Mo, Se, Ag, and Zn) in tissues of bowhead (Balaena mysticetus) and beluga (Delphinapterus leucas) whales from arctic Alaska (USA) and northwestern Canada. Tissue samples were collected between 1983 and 1997, mostly in 1995–97. The essential elements are reported to develop reference ranges for health status determination, and to help assess known or suspected interactions affecting toxicoses of cadmium (Cd) and mercury (Hg). In some tissues, Cd, Hg, and selenium (Se) were present at concentrations that have been associated with toxicoses in some domestic animals. Nevertheless, tissue levels of all elements were within ranges that have been reported previously in marine mammals. While mean Ag concentrations in beluga whale liver were relatively high (15.91 μg/g ww), Ag was not associated with hepatic Se levels or age, contrary to previous findings. Significant associations included: Cd with age, Zn, or Cu; Cu with age, Zn or Ag; and Hg with age, Se, Zn, or Cu. This study found hepatic Hg:Se molar ratios to be consistently lower than unity and different between species. Possible explanations for observed elemental correlations (i.e., interactions) and ancillary mechanisms of Cd and Hg detoxification are discussed.
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Vol. 37 • No. 4