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. 1996 Oct;31(3):399-403.
doi: 10.1007/BF00212679.

Chromosome Survey of Seals in the Baltic Sea in 1988-1992


Chromosome Survey of Seals in the Baltic Sea in 1988-1992

K Hongell. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. .


The populations of grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) and ringed seals (Phoca hispida botnica) in the Baltic Sea have decreased very much, especially during the last decades. Environmental pollution has been seen as an important cause. As top predators, the seals accumulate pollutants from their environment. High concentrations of chlorinated hydrocarbons and heavy metals have been found in seals from the Baltic Sea. In the present study the possible mutagenic effects of environmental pollutants on the seals have been studied by screening cultured lymphocytes for chromosome aberrations. Blood samples were taken from grey seal pups before weaning in March-April, and from adult ringed seals at the end of April during 1988-1992. Blood cells were cultured for 48 h for screening for chromosome aberrations, and for 61 h with bromodeoxyuridine for the study of sister chromatid exchange (SCE). The types of aberrations found were chromosome and chromatid breaks, gaps, and fragmentations. More complicated rearrangements were rare. Blood samples from a total of 47 grey seal pups and from ten adult ringed seals were analysed. The mean frequency of cells with chromosome aberrations from the grey seals was 5.7% (SD +/-5.3). The median was 4, because the distribution was skewed with some animals having a considerably higher frequency of aberrations than the average. Some cells with several aberrations and fragmentation of the chromosomes were observed among the lymphocytes from these animals. The frequencies of SCEs were not markedly higher than those normally found in humans. The frequencies of aberrations found in the adult ringed seals were lower than those found in the grey seal pups. The chromosome aberrations are probably caused by chemical pollutants.

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