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.

Relationship between Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and Ranging Patterns in Common Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from Coastal Georgia, USA



John Kucklick, Brian C. Balmer, Lori Schwacke, Randall Wells, Clay George, Jennifer Hoguet, Suzanne Lane, Anthony Martinez, William McLellan, Patricia Rosel, T K. Rowles, Kate Sparks, Todd Speakman, Eric Zolman, D A. Pabst


Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are apex predators and common in coastal southeastern U.S. waters; as such they are indicators of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in coastal ecosystems. The concentrations of POPs and patterns of specific compounds measured in a dolphin's blubber are influenced by a number of factors, including the animal's sex and ranging pattern in relation to POP point sources. This study examined concentrations of POPs measured in blubber of bottlenose dolphins (n = 102) sampled from the southern Georgia, USA coast in relation to their individual ranging patterns and specifically, distance of sightings from a polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) point source near Brunswick, Georgia. Dolphin ranging patterns were determined based upon 5 years of photo-identification data from two field sites approximately 40 kilometers apart: (1) the Brunswick field site, which included the Turtle Brunswick River Estuary (TBRE), and (2) the Sapelo field site, which included the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve (SINERR). Dolphins were categorized into three distinct ranging patterns from photo-identification data. Individuals with sighting histories exclusively within one of the defined field sites were considered to have either Brunswick or Sapelo ranging patterns. Individuals sighted in both the Brunswick and Sapelo field sites were classified as having a Mixed ranging pattern. Brunswick males had the highest concentrations of PCBs ever reported for any marine mammal. The pattern of PCB congeners was consistent with Aroclor 1268, a highly chlorinated PCB mixture that is associated with a Superfund site in Brunswick. PCB levels in Sapelo males were lower than in Brunswick males, but comparable to the highest levels previously measured in other dolphin populations along the southeastern U.S. Aroclor 1268 congeners comprised over 60% of the PCBs in bottlenose dolphins within both field sites. Female dolphins had higher proportions of
Science of the Total Environment


bottlenose dolphin, PCB, stock, habitat


Kucklick, J. , Balmer, B. , Schwacke, L. , Wells, R. , George, C. , Hoguet, J. , Lane, S. , Martinez, A. , McLellan, W. , Rosel, P. , Rowles, T. , Sparks, K. , Speakman, T. , Zolman, E. and Pabst, D. (2011), Relationship between Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and Ranging Patterns in Common Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from Coastal Georgia, USA, Science of the Total Environment, [online], (Accessed May 27, 2024)


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

Created May 2, 2011, Updated February 28, 2022