Mineral and essential trace elements are involved in numerous physiological processes in mammals. Often, diseases are associated with an imbalance of the electrolyte homeostasis. In this study, the concentrations of mineral elements (P, S, K, Ca) and essential trace elements (Fe, Cu, Zn, Se, Rb, Sr) in whole blood of harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) were determined using total-reflection X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (TXRF). Samples from 81 free-ranging harbor seals from the North Sea and two captive seals were collected during 2003-2005.
Reference ranges and element correlations for health status determination were derived for P, S, K, Ca, Fe, Cu, and Zn level in whole blood. Grouping the seals by age, gender and sample location the concentration levels of the elements were compared.
The blood from two captive seals with signs of diseases and four free-ranging seals showed reduced element levels of P, S, and Ca and differences in element correlation of electrolytes were ascertained.
Thus, simultaneous measurements of several elements in only 500 mu L volumes of whole blood provide the possibility to obtain information on both, the electrolyte balance and the hydration status of the seals. The method could therefore serve as an additional biomonitoring tool for the health assessment. (c) 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.