Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are a recognized man-made threat to sea turtle populations, but the uncertainty surrounding exposure and sensitivity of sea turtles to contaminants is great and makes decision making difficult for conservation managers. To provide baseline concentrations and spatial comparisons, we measured a large suite of POPs in loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) egg yolk samples from 44 nests laid in three distinct locations: North Carolina (NC), eastern Florida (E FL), and western Florida (W FL). POPs included polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides such as DDTs, chlordanes, mirex, dieldin, HCHs, HCB, and toxaphenes, as well as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). POP concentrations were lowest in W FL, intermediate in E FL, and highest in NC. This increasing gradient along the southeast coast around the FL peninsula to NC was explained partly by the foraging site selection of the nesting females. Tracking studies show that NC nesting females feed primarily along the U.S. eastern coast, whereas W FL nesting females forage in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. E FL nesting females forage in areas that overlap these two. The foraging site selection also results in exposure to different patterns of POPs. An atypical PBDE pattern was seen in the NC samples with nearly equal contributions of PBDEs 47, 100 and 154. A future study will assess correlations between these POP concentrations and measures of hatching success and hatchling fitness.
Citation: Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Pub Type: Journals
egg, contaminant, lipid, organohalogen, reptile