We analyzed Hg, Zn and Cu concentrations in the liver and muscle of tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier) from the coast of Ishigaki Island, Japan. The Hg concentration in the muscle increased proportionally with body length in the tiger sharks, whereas that in the liver increased rapidly after maturity (defined by a length of over 2.7 m). Muscle Hg levels were higher than liver concentrations in immature sharks, with the inverse trend observed in mature sharks. Notably, the Zn and Cu concentrations in the liver tended to decrease with increasing body length. This rapid increase in hepatic Hg concentration concurrent with the onset of maturity in sharks may result from the continuous intake of Hg via food and the slower growth of mature sharks. The high concentrations of the essential metals Zn and Cu in immature sharks may be explained by the physiological demands related to rapid growth. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.