Heavy metals and moose

November 9, 2010
Heavy metals and moose
Moose in northern Norway are in better condition than their southern cousins. Researchers suspect heavy metals may play a role in the difference.

Moose in southern Norway are in significantly worse health than those further north and in eastern Norway. An analysis of roughly 600 moose livers, combined with information such as carcass weights and ages, shows that Norway’s southernmost herds are afflicted with kidney problems and osteoporosis.

Marit Nordlokken, a PhD candidate in NTNU's Department of Chemistry, is investigating whether one of the factors behind these findings may be high concentrations of heavy metals.

Cadmium accumulation

Nordløkken’s analysis shows that there is enough cadmium in the moose organs from southern Norway that hunters should think twice before they eat large amounts of foods made with moose liver or kidneys, such as liver pate or kidney pie.

“Many heavy metals are stored in the liver and kidneys of animals and humans alike. I have found a great deal of cadmium in my analysis. Cadmium is not acutely toxic, but the amount in the body increases with age and can eventually cause health problems and disease," Nordlokken says.

Geographical variation

Nordløkken has examined liver samples from about 600 animals. The samples are mainly supplied by hunters – primarly because it is rare that a moose will die of natural causes in a place where it can be found. She also collects information on carcass weight and age. This collection of information has enabled her to see that the size of the moose varies geographically, and that moose are larger the further north they live.

For example, the moose from the coasts of Nordland and Troms in northern Norway are much larger and heavier than their southern cousins, while moose from Trøndelag, in mid-Norway, are in the middle in terms of weight and size.

Nordløkken is able to determine the age of the moose by counting the rings in their teeth, much like biologists can age trees by counting annual tree rings. The oldest animal she has found to date is a cow that was 17-and-a-half years old.

Different diets

It has long been known that there are higher levels of air pollution and higher levels of heavy metals in southern Norway than in the rest of the country. This is due to atmospheric long-range transport from the rest of Europe where the heavy metals fall with acid rain.

The most severely affected areas are in West and East Agder counties and parts of Telemark county. This area is characterized by bedrock with granite and gneiss, both of which are not very good at neutralizing acid rain.

“It may also be important that the moose are living on different diets in different parts of the country.

The department has another project that examines plants in the southern region and will provide further information about in the plants that graze on,” say NTNU Professor Torunn Berg and Associate Professor Trond Peder Flaten, who along with Eiliv Steinnes are Nordlokken’s advisers.

Explore further: Moose multiplying in Scandinavia

Related Stories

Moose multiplying in Scandinavia

April 20, 2008

Biologists say there are now record numbers of moose in Scandinavia -- the greatest population since the Ice Age.

Decline in Russian tigers renews calls to end all trade

October 19, 2009

A shocking decline in the Russian Federation's wild tiger population highlights the importance of eliminating trade in and demand for tiger parts, the International Tiger Coalition (ITC) said today. The alliance of 40 organizations ...

Listen to the natives for better moose monitoring

February 17, 2010

Modern methods can answer a multitude of questions, but sometimes traditional techniques are superior. Authorities in northern Quebec, Canada, found this to their cost, when they relied upon statistical data to monitor moose ...

So that's why we're allergic to sun creams

October 12, 2010

What happens to sunscreens when they are exposed to sunlight? And how is the skin affected by the degradation products that form? This has been the subject of research at the University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University ...

Recommended for you

A long look back at fishes' extendable jaws

October 8, 2015

When it comes to catching elusive prey, many fishes rely on a special trick: protruding jaws that quickly extend their reach to snap up that next meal. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology ...

New protein cleanup factors found to control bacterial growth

October 8, 2015

Biochemists have long known that crucial cell processes depend on a highly regulated cleanup system known as proteolysis, where specialized proteins called proteases degrade damaged or no-longer-needed proteins. These proteases ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.