John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Forty‐seven days of decay does not change persistent organic pollutant levels in loggerhead sea turtle eggs

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Courtesy of John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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, nonlethal sampling is required (e.g., unhatched eggs collected postemergence). Previous contaminant monitoring studies have used unhatched sea turtle eggs, but no study has tested whether their concentrations represent levels found in fresh eggs (e.g., eggs collected within 24 h of oviposition). The authors analyzed three fresh eggs from different nest depths and up to three unhatched eggs from 10 loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) nests in South Carolina, USA for a suite of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Lipid‐normalized POP concentrations were not significantly different (p > 0.05) between fresh and unhatched eggs or among different depths from the same nest. The POP concentrations in loggerhead eggs from South Carolina were higher than previously measured concentrations in eggs from Florida and slightly lower than concentrations in eggs from North Carolina. This pattern agrees with previously observed trends of increasing POP concentrations in loggerhead turtles inhabiting northern latitudes along the U.S. East Coast. Contaminant profiles are discussed, including higher chlorinated polychlorinated biphenyl patterns possibly associated with a Superfund site in nearby Brunswick, Georgia, USA, and unusual polybrominated diphenylether patterns seen in this and previous sea turtle studies. Concentrations correlated with one of eight measurements of reproductive success; levels were negatively correlated with egg mass (p < 0.05), which may have implications for hatchling fitness. The present study suggests that unhatched eggs can be used for POP‐monitoring projects. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. © 2013 SETAC

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