Feathers of Humboldt penguin are suitable bioindicators of Rare Earth Elements.


Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale del Piemonte, Liguria e Valle d'Aosta, via Bologna 148, 10154 Turin, Italy. Electronic address: [Email]


Rare earth elements (REEs), also called lanthanides, are emerging contaminants worldwide, due to their unique physical and chemical characteristics that make them essential in a variety of industrial applications. However, there is still a gap in the knowledge of occurrence and accumulation of REEs in biota, and no investigations have yet been performed in penguin feathers, which have already been widely utilized as a non-invasive tool for the biomonitoring of trace elements. The concentrations of 16 REEs were investigated in a colony of Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti) housed at the Acquario di Cattolica (Italy). Multielement determination of REEs was performed by an Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometer after a microwave digestion of feathers. As this colony lives indoors in a controlled environment, it was the ideal choice for studying lanthanide occurrence in penguin feathers. Since there is a strict link between metal levels in feathers and the diet of penguins, their food (capelin) was also tested for REEs. Chondrite normalized values revealed the same pattern for REEs in feathers and fish, but REE concentrations were an order of magnitude higher in penguin feathers, demonstrating the suitability of this tissue as a bioindicator of REEs.


Bioaccumulation,Marine food chain,REEs,Spheniscus humboldti,