Methylmercury and Trace Element Distribution in the Organs of Stenella coeruleoalba Dolphins Stranded on the French Mediterranean Coast

Emmanuel Wafo*, 1, Véronique Risoul2, Thérèse Schembri3, Véronique Lagadec4, Frank Dhermain5, Chacha Mama6, Pierre Boissery7, Henri Portugal8
1 Laboratoire de Chimie Analytique, IMBE UMR 7263 CNRS, 237 IRD/ UMR NORT 1062 INSERM / INRA 1260 et UMR 910 Génétique, Faculté de Pharmacie, AMU, Marseille, France
2 Laboratoire de Chimie bactérienne, CNRS-UMR 7283, Marseille, France
3 Centre de Recherche Oncologie Biologique et Oncopharmacologique, INSERM-UMR 999, Marseille, France
4 OSU Pythéas, case 901, TPR1, Campus Luminy, Marseille, France
5 Groupe d’Etude des Cétacés de Méditerranée, Clinique Vétérinaire du Redon, 13 Bd du Redon, 13009 Marseille, France
6 FEAS, Alhosn University, P.O. Box 39772 Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
7 Agence de l’Eau, Rhône Méditerranée Corse, Agence de Marseille, France
8 Laboratoire de Chimie Analytique, UMR NORT 1062 INSERM / INRA 1260 et UMR 910 Génétique, Faculté de Pharmacie Marseille, France

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© 2014 Wafo et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Laboratoire Chimie Analytique, IMBE UMR 7263 CNRS, 237 IRD - UMR NORT 1062 INSERM / INRA 1260 et UMR 910 Génétique, Faculté de Pharmacie, AMU, Marseille, France; Tel: 0491835512; Fax: 0491793331;


The main objective of this study was to evaluate the contamination by mercury (Hg), methylmercury (Me-Hg), cadmium (Cd), selenium (Se), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), iron (Fe) and manganese (Mn) in dolphins stranded on the French Mediterranean coast.

The distributions of these contaminants in the organs of dolphins have also been studied. Overall, contamination levels varied according to the following sequence: liver > kidney > lung > muscle, except for cadmium (kidney > liver > lung > muscle).

Size and sex of animals were also considered. Young dolphins were less impacted with trace elements than adults, except for copper. Among the studied parameters, the most important appeared to be the size of mammals. In addition, in the case of mercury and selenium, the sex of mammals seemed to be also relevant.

The correlations between the concentrations of trace elements suggest the existence of detoxification processes.

Since 1990s, using dolphins for tracing marine pollution, a slight reduction in the burden of the considered trace elements could be noted.

Keywords: Mediterranean sea, methylmercury, striped dolphins, Stenella coeruleoalba, trace elements.