Water, Air, and Soil Pollution (1991)

DOI: 10.1007/bf00342277


Total Hg levels were determined in 17 harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena collected in the North Sea and the Kattegat (muscle, liver and kidney), as well as in a sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus, a common dolphin Delphinus delphis and two bottle-nose dolphins Tursiops truncatus collected in Belgium. Juvenile porpoises (total body length less than 140 cm) were characterized by total Hg concentrations increasing with length (t.i. with age) with median values of 3.1 μg g−1 dw in muscle, 6.2 in liver and 5.7 in kidney, and liver to muscle resp. liver to kidney ratios varying between 1 and 2. In adults, liver concentrations were higher (up to 500 μg g−1 dw) with liver to muscle and to kidney ratios up to 20. Median McHg concentrations in 5 of the porpoises were 4.0 μg g−1 dw in muscle and 6.9 in liver. These values did not increase as strongly with length (t.i. with age, at least for juveniles) as total Hg did; as a consequence, the relative McHg levels decreased from 100% in juveniles to 2 or 3 % in the liver of adults. Such results seem to reflect the existence of a slow mineralization phenomenon and storage of inorganic Hg, mainly in the liver.