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Trace Element Biodistribution in the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)



Frances Nilsen, Brittany L. Kassim, Patrick Delaney, Ted Lange, Arnold Brunell, Stephen E. Long, Tracey B. Schock, Louis J. Guillette Jr.


Routine monitoring of contaminant levels in wildlife is an important measure of ecosystem health and also can identify potential human health implications. This is particularly important when the monitored species is recreationally hunted for human consumption. In the southeastern United States, recreational alligator harvesting takes place annually, in locations that are known to be highly contaminated with environmental pollutants. In this study, we investigate the biodistribution of trace elements in the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) from five sites in Florida, USA. These sites are locations where annual recreational alligator harvesting is permitted, and two of the sites are identified as having high mercury contamination with consumption advisories in effect. We utilize routinely collected monitoring samples (blood and scute), a commonly consumed tissue (muscle), and a classically analyzed tissue for environmental contaminants (liver) to demonstrate how the trace elements are distributed within the American alligator. We describe elemental tissue compartmentalization and how muscle tissue concentrations can be estimated based on a blood or scute sample for a subset of elements measured (Hg, Rb, Se, Zn, Pb). We also find that Hg is the only trace metal of concern for this population of alligators. This study fills a gap in trace elemental analysis for reptilian apex predators, and further informs biomonitoring efforts for a more comprehensive elemental analysis of routinely collected samples.


Nilsen, F. , Kassim, B. , Delaney, P. , Lange, T. , Brunell, A. , Long, S. , Schock, T. and Guillette, L. (2017), Trace Element Biodistribution in the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), Chemosphere, [online], (Accessed June 16, 2024)


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Created April 23, 2017, Updated May 19, 2017