The fin whale, a marine top consumer, exposes strengths and weaknesses of the use of fluoride as ecological tracer.


Fluoride is retained in bone tissues of animals and its availability in the environment varies between regions according to natural and anthropogenic sources. These properties suggest this element as a suitable tracer of origin, distribution or movements of animals. In marine environments, krill builds-up fluoride concentrations that are transferred to its predators. In this study we examine the ability of bone fluoride concentrations to discriminate two separate populations of a krill consumer, the fin whale. Background levels of the sampling areas (Western Iceland and North-Western Spain) were determined through the analysis of krill samples. As expected, due to the high load of volcanic-derived fluoride in Icelandic waters, krill from W Iceland showed much higher fluoride concentrations than that from NW Spain. Concentrations in whales' bone were correlated with sex and age, increasing linearly with age in females and showing significantly lower values and a different age-related pattern of accumulation in males. Fluoride concentrations in whales' bone were much higher than in krill, indicating accumulation of the element but, rather unexpectedly, the area of origin had no influence on concentrations. This apparent contradiction may be explained either by the integration in bone of food consumed in other areas, or by the activation of homeostatic responses at very high levels of fluoride exposure. It is concluded that fluoride can be a useful tracer only if age and sex data are integrated into the analysis, year-round information on diet is available and/or the investigated population is exposed to mild levels of this element.

DOI: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2015.02.023

Cite this paper

@article{Vighi2015TheFW, title={The fin whale, a marine top consumer, exposes strengths and weaknesses of the use of fluoride as ecological tracer.}, author={Morgana Vighi and I Garc{\'i}a-Nisa and Assumpci{\'o} Borrell and {\'A}lex Aguilar}, journal={Chemosphere}, year={2015}, volume={127}, pages={229-37} }