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Mercury and neurochemical biomarkers in multiple brain regions of five Arctic marine mammals

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  • J P Desforges, Department of Natural Resource Sciences, McGill Univ, McGill University, McGill Space Inst, Natural Resource Sciences, McGill University, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue H9X 3V9, Canada.
  • ,
  • B Mikkelsen, Faroe Marine Research Institute, Tórshavn, Faroe Islands., Psykiatrisk Hospital, Tórshavn
  • ,
  • M Dam
  • F Rigét
  • S Sveegaard
  • C Sonne
  • R Dietz
  • N Basu, McGill Univ, McGill University, McGill Space Inst

Mercury is a neurotoxic chemical that represents one of the greatest pollution threats to Arctic ecosystem health. Evaluating the direct neurotoxic effects of mercury in free ranging wildlife is challenging, necessitating the use of neurochemical biomarkers to assess potential sub-clinical neurological changes. The objective of this study was to characterize the distribution and speciation of mercury, as well as exposure-associated changes in neurochemistry, across multiple brain regions (n = 10) and marine mammal species (n = 5) that each occupy a trophic niche in the Arctic ecosystem. We found consistent species differences in mean brain and brain region-specific concentrations of total mercury (THg) and methyl mercury (MeHg), with higher concentrations in toothed whales (narwhal, pilot whales and harbour porpoise) compared to fur-bearing mammals (polar bear and ringed seal). Mean THg (μg/g dw) in decreasing rank order was: pilot whale (11.9) > narwhal (7.7) > harbour porpoise (3.6) > polar bear (0.6) > ringed seal (0.2). The higher THg concentrations in toothed whales was associated with a marked reduction in the percentage of MeHg (<40 %) compared to polar bears (>70 %) that had lower brain THg concentrations. This pattern in mercury concentration and speciation corresponded broadly to an overall higher number of mercury-associated neurochemical biomarker correlations in toothed whales. Of the 226 correlations between mercury and neurochemical biomarkers across brain regions, we found 60 (27 %) meaningful relationships (r>0.60 or p < 0.10). We add to the growing weight of evidence that wildlife accumulate mercury in their brains and demonstrate that there is variance in accumulation across species as well as across distinct brain regions, and that some of these exposures may be associated with sub-clinical changes in neurochemistry.

Sider (fra-til)136-145
Antal sider10
StatusE-pub ahead of print - 24 mar. 2021

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