Heavy Metal Concentrations in Museum Fish Specimens: Effects of Preservatives and Time

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Science  26 Apr 1974:
Vol. 184, Issue 4135, pp. 475-477
DOI: 10.1126/science.184.4135.475


Specimens of myctophid fish preserved for 1 month in formalin, ethyl alcohol, and isopropyl alcohol had higher concentrations of cadmium, copper, zinc, and sometimes lead, and lower concentrations of mercury and sometimes lead, than did unpreserved frozen specimens. Properties of the preservatives and species differences in fish tissues both influence these metal concentrations. Maximum concentrations of some metals in preserved specimens appear to be attained within a month, while concentrations of others may continue to increase for years. Metal tags or other materials in the preservative may cause higher maximum concentrations than the preservatives alone. Comparisons of concentrations of metals between museum specimens and unpreserved (frozen) specimens must be considered unreliable until the changes resulting from preservation are understood.