Fur and faeces - Routes of mercury elimination in the Baltic grey seal (Halichoerus grypus grypus)

Agnieszka Grajewska , Lucyna Falkowska , Dominika Saniewska , Iwona Pawliczka Vel Pawlik


This study focused on evaluating the elimination of Hg by Baltic grey seals (Halichoerus grypus grypus) via faeces and pelage. In addition, we investigated the potential for ecosystem contamination via these routes. Faeces and fur were collected in 2014–2017 from captive adult grey seals and their pups. The concentrations of total mercury (THg) and methylmercury (MeHg) were measured in the samples. The amount of mercury eliminated in a labile form (the sum of the bioavailable Hg(II) and methylmercury) was also determined. An adult seal removed about 46% of mercury supplied with food via the faeces, of which only 17% was MeHg. Considering that mercury is mainly supplied to the body as MeHg, it can be assumed that mercury excreted along with faeces has undergone transformation inside the animal body. Despite the much higher THg and MeHg concentrations measured in fur, the incorporation of mercury into newly formed fur is a less effective method of Hg elimination removing just 4% of mercury entering the body via the alimentary route. The presence of mercury in lanugo is evidence of maternal transfer. First droppings of the pups were characterised by the highest content of MeHg and a low THg concentration. Then, despite the limited supply of mercury with food, and the rapid growth of the pup, the concentration of THg increased, suggesting that mercury started to be transformed into less toxic forms. It was estimated that faeces and fur expelled by seals could deliver about 800 g of mercury to the Baltic Sea. For both faeces and fur, most of the mercury (>95% for excrements and >85% for fur) was expelled in a labile form that can be quickly recycled.
Author Agnieszka Grajewska (FOG/IO/DMChEP)
Agnieszka Grajewska,,
- Division of Marine Chemistry and Environmental Protection
, Lucyna Falkowska (FOG/IO/DMChEP)
Lucyna Falkowska,,
- Division of Marine Chemistry and Environmental Protection
, Dominika Saniewska (FOG/IO/DMChEP)
Dominika Saniewska,,
- Division of Marine Chemistry and Environmental Protection
, Iwona Pawliczka Vel Pawlik (FOG/IO/HMS)
Iwona Pawliczka Vel Pawlik,,
- Hel Marine Station
Journal seriesScience of the Total Environment, ISSN 0048-9697, e-ISSN 1879-1026, (N/A 200 pkt)
Issue year2020
Article number137050
Keywords in EnglishMercury, elimination, phocids, hair, excrements, metabolism
ASJC Classification2304 Environmental Chemistry; 2305 Environmental Engineering; 2310 Pollution; 2311 Waste Management and Disposal
Languageen angielski
Score (nominal)200
Score sourcejournalList
ScoreMinisterial score = 200.0, 15-04-2020, ArticleFromJournal
Publication indicators Scopus SNIP (Source Normalised Impact per Paper): 2016 = 1.849; WoS Impact Factor: 2018 = 5.589 (2) - 2018=5.727 (5)
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