Persistent Organic Pollutants in Blood Plasma of Adult Male Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta)

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Ragland, Jared M.
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Organohalogen contaminant (OHC) threats remain largely a mystery for threatened loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta). This study examines regional-scale OHC differences in the blood plasma of adult male C. caretta based on movement patterns monitored by satellite tracking. Turtles were captured in the Cape Canaveral, FL, shipping channel in the summers of 2006 and 2007 and fitted with satellite transmitters as part of a NMFS project conducted by the SCDNR; blood was sampled from each captured animal. Samples from selected individuals were analyzed for legacy contaminants (organochlorine pesticides [17 OCPs] and polychlorinated biphenyls [74 PCB congeners]) and contaminants of emerging concern (polybrominated diphenyl ethers [27 PBDE congeners]) using gas chromatography mass spectrometry. Turtles selected were tracked for an average of 140 days. One group (n=9) remained in the capture vicinity; another group migrated northward along the eastern US coast during summer months becoming established in areas largely from south of Pamlico Sound, NC, to north of Cape May, NJ (n=10). Migratory adult male C. caretta showed elevated blood plasma concentrations of five OCPs and ΣPBDEs (p<0.05). Atypical PBDE patterns were detected in migratory adults with PBDE 154 as the dominant congener; PBDE 47 is the dominant congener reported in most wildlife. Additionally, PCB concentrations were slightly elevated in the migratory group and congener patterns differed between the two groups. This study lends support to the idea that foraging location can have a dramatic effect on OH contaminant exposure in highly mobile species such as C. caretta. Understanding patterns of contamination informs wildlife managers about possible health risks to certain subpopulations. In addition, this study is the first to examine OH in the rarely studied adult male sea turtle and to couple contaminant measurements with satellite tagging.
Loggerhead turtle -- Effect of chemicals on; Loggerhead turtle -- Effect of pollution on; Persistent pollutants -- Bioaccumulation; Persistent pollutants -- Environmental aspects.