Reptile and bird eggs are priority samples for specimen banking programs that assess spatial and temporal trends of environmental contaminants. From endangered species, such as sea turtles, non-lethal sampling is required, like collecting unhatched eggs after hatchlings have emerged. Previous contaminant monitoring studies have used unhatched sea turtle eggs, but no study has tested whether they represent the concentrations in freshly laid eggs. We analyzed three freshly laid eggs from different nest depths and up to three unhatched eggs from ten loggerhead sea turtle nests in South Carolina for a suite of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Lipid-normalized POP concentrations were not different between fresh and unhatched eggs or among different depths from the same nest. These concentrations were higher than previously measured in eggs from Florida and slightly lower than in eggs from North Carolina, agreeing with previous latitudinal trends observed in sea turtles along the U.S. east coast. Contaminant profiles are discussed regarding an unusual polychlorinated biphenyl pattern contaminating nearby Brunswick, Georgia, and unusual polybrominated diphenylether patterns seen in previous sea turtle studies. POP concentrations did not correlate with most nest success variables, except for eggs with smaller mass had higher concentrations. This study demonstrates that freshly laid eggs do not need to be sacrificed for POP monitoring projects.
Citation: Environment International
Pub Type: Journals
eggs, environmental contaminants, environmental specimen banking, Marine turtles, nonlethal sampling, persistent organic pollutants, reptiles