MERCURY IN HAIR OF LARGE ALASKAN HERBIVORES: ROUTES OF EXPOSURE
Atmospheric-soil cycling of mercury is a process ultimately affecting mercury distribution to upper trophic levels in terrestrial ecosystems. In the Arctic and sub-Arctic, there is a paucity of information on processes and pathways related to mercury accumulation in terrestrial environments. We reviewed data on mercury levels in resident species of caribou (Rangifer tarandus) and muskox (Ovibos moschatus). Comparison of the inhaled and ingested contribution of mercury from the environment in those species, as well as concentration factors, show accumulation of total mercury (THg) at higher trophic levels in the terrestrial food webs in Alaska, USA. Higher THg concentrations in free-ranging caribou support the hypothesis that caribou, with a major component of lichen in their diet, have higher levels of Hg. Captive muskox showed little biomagnification with a concentration ratio close to 1, whereas caribou had a concentration ratio of 12.
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