Sex, Age, and Tissue Specific Accumulation of Eight Metals, Arsenic, and Selenium in the European Hedgehog (Erinaceus Europaeus)

Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2010 Nov;59(4):642-51. doi: 10.1007/s00244-010-9503-8. Epub 2010 Apr 7.


Many insectivores have been shown to be sensitive to heavy metals and therefore suitable for biomonitoring purposes. In Finland, the hibernation period of the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) is long, and during hibernation the stress caused by environmental toxins may be crucial. Concentrations of cadmium (Cd), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo), nickel (Ni), lead (Pb), arsenic (As), and selenium (Se) were measured in a population of hedgehogs in the town of Joensuu in eastern Finland during the summers of 2004 and 2005. The analyzed tissues were kidney, liver, hair, and spine. The sampled hedgehogs (n = 65) were mainly road-killed animals. As expected, the concentrations of heavy metals were low because the hedgehogs were living in a comparatively unpolluted area. Significant increases with age were found in Cd concentrations (kidney, liver, and spine) and some essential elements (Se in spine, kidney, and liver; Mo in kidney and liver; Cu in spine; Fe in liver; and Mn in spine). Age accumulation and correlations between Se and Cd and between Mo and Cd may indicate the protective roles of Se and Mo against Cd toxicity in hedgehogs, in which Cd is already at comparatively low concentrations. Sex had no significant effect on concentrations of the elements studied. In conclusion, age is an important parameter to be taken into account when studying heavy-metal concentrations in hedgehogs and other insectivores.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Arsenic / metabolism*
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Hair / metabolism
  • Hedgehogs / metabolism*
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Metals / metabolism*
  • Selenium / metabolism*
  • Sex Factors
  • Spine / metabolism


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Metals
  • Selenium
  • Arsenic