Levels of cadmium, mercury, and lead in Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) stranded on the Brazilian coast

Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2010 Feb;58(2):460-8. doi: 10.1007/s00244-009-9349-0. Epub 2009 Jul 7.


Cadmium (Cd), mercury (Hg), and lead (Pb) were determined in samples of liver and breast muscles of first-year Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus), from two different areas on the Brazilian coast, 35 on the Rio de Janeiro coast and 12 on the Rio Grande do Sul coast. In both areas, Cd concentrations in muscle samples were <0.025 microg/g. However, the Cd and Hg concentrations found in liver and Hg concentrations found in muscle showed a significant difference between the two regions. The geometric mean of the concentrations was higher in the specimens from Rio de Janeiro (Cd--6.8 microg/g; Hg--liver, 1.6 microg/g, and muscle, 0.4 microg/g wet weight) than in those from Rio Grande do Sul (Cd--2.3 microg/g; Hg--liver, 0.9 microg/g, and muscle, 0.1 microg/g wet weight). The site differences could be related to differences in diet influenced by geographic factors. Brazil's southeastern coast is highly urbanized, and its coastal waters are contaminated by the waste of agricultural and industrial activities. There is a lack of information on the levels of heavy metals in S. magellanicus, however, their wide distribution and top position in the trophic chain make the use of stranded specimens an attractive source of information for monitoring heavy metals in the South Atlantic coast.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Brazil
  • Cadmium Compounds / analysis
  • Cadmium Compounds / metabolism*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Lead / analysis
  • Lead / metabolism*
  • Liver / chemistry
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Mercury Compounds / analysis
  • Mercury Compounds / metabolism*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / chemistry
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Seawater
  • Spheniscidae / metabolism*


  • Cadmium Compounds
  • Mercury Compounds
  • Lead