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Hepatic and nephric mercury and selenium concentrations in common mergansers Mergus merganser from Baltic Region, Europe

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Mercury (Hg) and selenium (Se) concentrations and their relationships in wild aquatic vertebrates have been investigated in areas with appropriate or excessive Se levels, mainly in North America. Generally, total mercury (THg) is determined in biota, although piscivorous vertebrates are most affected by dietborne methylmercury (MeHg). Mercury detoxification is based largely on production of biologically inactive Hg‐Se complexes. The subject of this study was the piscivorous common mergansers (Mergus merganser), a duck species occurring in Eurasia and North America. Selenium, THg, MeHg, inorganic mercury (InHg = THg–MeHg), %MeHg of THg, molar ratios (THg:Se, MeHg:Se, InHg:Se) and their mutual relations in livers and kidneys were determined in ducks from a Se‐deficient area in Poland. We verified a hypothesis that due to living in Se‐deficient region, mergansers from Poland should have a higher THg:Se ratios than other waterbirds with similar THg tissue levels. Although a comparison of healthy mergansers from Poland and Canada showed similar THg tissue contents, our group had a few times lower Se levels and higher THg:Se ratios (overall means >1.7 in both livers and kidneys in all studied individuals) than the Canadian group and other European and North American waterbirds. We found significant correlations between various relations, including MeHg–THg, InHg–THg, Se–THg, %MeHg–THg, InHg/%THg–THg, %MeHg/THg–InHg, %InHg/THg–InHg, MeHg:Se–THg:Se, InHg:Se–THg:Se, InHg:Se–MeHg:Se in liver and InHg–THg, Se–THg, Se–InHg, %MeHg–THg, %MeHg–InHg, %InHg/THg–InHg, THg:Se–THg, InHg:Se–THg, MeHg:Se–MeHg, THg:Se–InHg, InHg:Se–InHg and InHg:Se–THg:Se in kidney. Probably the main factor responsible for the high value of THG:Se ratio (>1) in mergansers from Poland is Se deficiency in central and northern Europe. Therefore this element is unlikely to participate in the detoxification of Hg in these birds. Environ Toxicol Chem © 2013 SETAC

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