Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Persistent Organic Pollutant Concentrations in Fat, Blubber, Blood and Eggs of Leatherback Turtles with Confirmation of Maternal Transfer



Jennifer M. Lynch, John R. Kucklick, Kelly R. Stewart, Ryan Templeton, Chris Johnson


Among contaminant studies in reptiles, turtles, and in particular sea turtles, are poorly represented. To assess threats to this endangered species, it is critical to establish baseline values for contaminant concentrations that may have detrimental consequences at the individual or population level. The purpose of this study was to measure and then evaluate the relationship between contaminant concentrations in blubber and fat samples from seven dead stranded leatherbacks along the beaches of the Southeastern USA. In addition, we aimed to establish baseline measurements of organohalogen contaminants (PCBs, pesticides, PBDEs, and toxaphenes) in nesting leatherback turtles from Florida and to investigate whether these contaminants are passed on to eggs using paired blood and egg samples from six turtles. In the fat and blubber samples, the five predominant PCBs were 153+132, 187+182, 138+163, 118, and 180+193. These five contaminants were also present in female blood and egg samples, but at different proportions than for the fat and blubber samples. Contaminant concentrations (total PCBs, 4,4’-DDE, total PBDEs and total chlordanes) were positively correlated between the blood and egg samples from nesting turtles suggesting that these contaminants are passed to the eggs during lipid deposition. This relationship was also evident between the fat and blubber concentrations, but total PBDEs were not significant (p = 0.13). There was evidence that less lipophilic PCB congeners were more readily transferred from the females to their eggs than more lipophilic compounds. PBDE profiles in the four tissues were similar to what has been documented for other wildlife populations, but different from some other turtle studies. Although the contaminant concentrations that we measured in leatherbacks were much lower than those shown to have toxic or lethal effects in other aquatic turtles and reptiles, evidence from other sea turtle studies show that our measured concentrations may
Science of the Total Environment


leatherback, contaminants, blood, fat, maternal transfer, PBDE


Lynch, J. , Kucklick, J. , Stewart, K. , Templeton, R. and Johnson, C. (2011), Persistent Organic Pollutant Concentrations in Fat, Blubber, Blood and Eggs of Leatherback Turtles with Confirmation of Maternal Transfer, Science of the Total Environment, [online], (Accessed July 23, 2024)


If you have any questions about this publication or are having problems accessing it, please contact

Created July 1, 2011, Updated January 27, 2020