Mercury trends in ringed seals (Phoca hispida) from the western Canadian Arctic since 1973: associations with length of ice-free season.Environ Sci Technol. 2009 May 15; 43(10):3646-51.ES
We examined a unique time series of ringed seal (Phoca hispida) samples collected from a single location in the western Canadian Arctic between 1973 and 2007 to test for changes in total mercury (THg) in muscle tissue associated with (1) year and (2) length of ice-free season. We found no temporal trend with muscle THg whereas a curvilinear relationship existed with the length of ice-free season: seals attaimed higher THg in short (2 months) and long (5 months) ice-free seasons. delta 15N and delta13C in muscle tissue did not illustrate significant trends with ice-free days. We estimated that the turnover time of THg in muscle was about twice as long as stable isotope turnover in muscle, possibly explaining the lack of trend with stable isotopes in association with ice-free duration. Our discussion explains how summer environmental conditions may influence the composition of prey (mercury exposure) available to ringed seals. Results offer insight into how marine mammals may respond to directional changes in the Arctic ice-free season.