Total mercury in hair of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from Greenland and Svalbard

  • Erik W. Born
  • Aristeo Renzoni
  • Rune Dietz


Concentrations (ppm = ug/g dry weight) of total mercury (Hg) were determined in hair of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from northwestern Greenland (N = 22; period of sampling: 1978-1989), eastern Greenland (N = 44: 1984-1989) and Svalbard (N = 31; 1980). For subadults (2-6 years of life), adults (7-10 years). and old bears (>10 years), concentrations of total Hg in hair were not found to be dependent on age or sex. A decreasing trend in Hg concentrations was found from west to east. The mean concentrations of total Hg in hair (cubs of the year and yearlings excluded) were: northwestern Greenland, x = 8.38 ppm (min.-max.: 4.71-14.19 ppm. N = 21); eastern Greenland: x = 4.58 ppm (min.-max.: 2.50-8.83 ppm. N = 41); and Svalbard, x = 1.98 ppm (min.-max.: 1.02-4.55 ppm, N = 29). Concentrations found in northwestern Greenland were similar to those reported by others from the hair of polar bears sampled within management zone F of the eastern Canadian High Arctic. Concentrations of total Hg in polar bear hair from eastern Greenland were similar to concentrations found by others in contemporary (1988) material collected during spring in western Svalbard. However, the mean concentration of total Hg in the 1980 Svalbard material, which was collected during July-September, was significantly lower than concentrations found in samples taken during late winter and spring in eastern Greenland and at Svalbard, respectively. Presumably the relatively low concentrations found in the 1980 Svalbard sample arc attributable to the period of moult and hence a larger proportion of newly grown hair in the individual samples. In a subsample consisting of internal tissues from 19 polar bears from eastern Greenland (1984-1987), concentrations of total Hg in hair correlated positively with concentrations of total Hg (wet weight) in muscle (N = 6), liver (N = 19) and kidney (N = 19) tissue. For liver and kidney tissue these relationships were statistically significant.


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How to Cite
Born, E. W., Renzoni, A., & Dietz, R. (1991). Total mercury in hair of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from Greenland and Svalbard. Polar Research, 9(2), 113-120.
Research/review articles