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 ringed seals (Phoca hispida) and polar bears (Ursus maritimus) of arctic Alaska (USA). All samples were collected between 1995–97 in conjunction with subsistence harvests. The essential elements are reported to help 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 other pinnipeds and polar bears. Significant associations included: Cd with Zn or Cu; Cu with Zn or Ag; and Hg with Se, Zn, or Cu. This study found hepatic Hg: Se molar ratios to be lower than unity and different between the two species. Based upon significant differences in mean tissue elemental concentrations for polar bear versus ringed seal, we concluded that biomagnification factors (bear/seal) were significant for: Cu in liver and muscle; Pb in kidney; Se in kidney and muscle; Zn in liver and muscle; and Hg in liver. 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