Monitoring persistent organic pollutants in leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) confirms maternal transfer

Mar Pollut Bull. 2011 Jul;62(7):1396-409. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2011.04.042. Epub 2011 May 25.


To assess threats to endangered species, it is critical to establish baselines for contaminant concentrations that may have detrimental consequences to individuals or populations. We measured contaminants in blubber and fat from dead leatherback turtles and established baselines in blood and eggs in nesting turtles. In fat, blubber, blood and eggs, the predominant PCBs were 153+132, 187+182, 138+163, 118, and 180+193. Total PCBs, 4,4'-DDE, total PBDEs and total chlordanes were significantly and positively correlated between blood and eggs, suggesting maternal transfer. Significant positive relationships also existed between fat and blubber in stranded leatherbacks. Less lipophilic PCBs appeared to more readily transfer from females to their eggs. PBDE profiles in the four tissues were similar to other wildlife populations but different from some turtle studies. Concentrations were lower than those shown to have acute toxic effects in other aquatic reptiles, but may have sub-lethal effects on hatchling body condition and health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Female
  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers / metabolism*
  • Maternal Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Ovum / metabolism
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls / metabolism*
  • Turtles / metabolism*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / metabolism*


  • Halogenated Diphenyl Ethers
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Polychlorinated Biphenyls