MEPS 403:269-278 (2010)  -  doi:10.3354/meps08462

Persistent organic pollutants in the green sea turtle Chelonia mydas: nesting population variation, maternal transfer, and effects on development

Jason P. van de Merwe1,5,*, Mary Hodge2, Joan M. Whittier3,6, Kamarruddin Ibrahim4,7, Shing Y. Lee1

1Griffith School of Environment and Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University Gold Coast campus, Gold Coast, Queensland 4222, Australia
2Queensland Health Scientific Services, Queensland Government, Coopers Plains, Queensland 4108, Australia
3School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia
4Turtle and Marine Ecosystems Centre, Department of Fisheries Malaysia, Rantau Abang, Terengganu 23050, Malaysia
5Present address: Centre for Marine Environmental Research and Innovative Technology, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong SAR China
6Present address: School of Medicine, University of Tasmania, Sandy Bay, Tasmania 7005, Australia
7Present address: Marine Park Department of Malaysia, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Federal Government Administration Centre, Putrajaya 62574, Malaysia

ABSTRACT: Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), have a wide range of toxic effects on humans and wildlife, and have been reported in a number of endangered sea turtle populations. The present study screened for POPs in a green sea turtle Chelonia mydas population in Peninsular Malaysia and investigated the maternal transfer and effects of POPs on embryonic development. At the Ma’Daerah Turtle Sanctuary, blood, eggs and hatchling blood were collected from 11 nesting female C. mydas. Samples were analysed for 83 PCBs, 23 OCPs and 19 PBDEs using gas chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry. The chemical profiles of eggs from individual turtles were significantly different, indicating variable contaminant uptake during foraging. There was evidence of maternal transfer of POPs to eggs and hatchlings, with significant correlations in sum of PCBs (ΣPCB), sum of PBDEs (ΣPBDE), γ-hexachlorocyclohexane (γ-HCH), trans-chlordane and mirex concentrations between maternal blood and eggs (p < 0.05, R2 < 0.71), between eggs and hatchling blood (p < 0.05, R2 < 0.83), and between maternal and hatchling blood (p < 0.05, R2 < 0.61). In addition, there was congener-specific transfer of PCBs with less lipophilic congeners (e.g. PCB 99) more readily transferred to hatchlings than the more lipophilic congeners (e.g. PCBs 180 + 193). There was also a significant correlation between increasing egg POP concentration and decreasing hatchling mass:length ratio. POPs may therefore have subtle effects on the development of C. mydas eggs, which may compromise offshore dispersal and predator avoidance.


KEY WORDS: Chelonia mydas · Persistent organic pollutants · Maternal transfer · Contamination profiles


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Cite this article as: van de Merwe JP, Hodge M, Whittier JM, Ibrahim K, Lee SY (2010) Persistent organic pollutants in the green sea turtle Chelonia mydas: nesting population variation, maternal transfer, and effects on development. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 403:269-278

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