, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 512-524

Temporal and geographic variation of organochlorine residues in eggs of the common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina serpentina) (1981–1991) and comparisons to trends in the herring gull (Larus argentatus) in the Great Lakes basin in Ontario, Canada

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Abstract

Common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina serpentina) eggs from five sites within the Great Lakes basin, and from a reference site in north-central Ontario were collected during 1981–1991 and analyzed for four organochlorine pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) including six non-ortho PCBs, polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (PCDDs), and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs). The pattern of geographic variation was consistent over time in eggs with Cootes Paradise/Hamilton Harbour and Lynde Creek eggs on Lake Ontario containing the highest concentrations and most PCDD and PCDF congeners among all sites. Eggs from Cranberry Marsh on Lake Ontario contained organochlorine concentrations similar to those from Big Creek Marsh and Rondeau Provincial Park on Lake Erie except PCDDs and PCDFs which occurred at higher concentrations and more congeners were detectable in Cranberry Marsh eggs.

Concentrations of most contaminants in turtle eggs from Algonquin Park, the reference site, have significantly decreased in the past decade. Dieldrin concentrations, however, increased in Algonquin Park eggs from 1981 to 1989. Significant decreases in concentrations of hexachlorobenzene, mirex and PCBs occurred between turtle eggs collected in 1981/84 and 1989 at Big Creek Marsh and Rondeau Provincial Park, whereas there was no significant change in concentrations of p,p'-DDE and dieldrin. In Lake Ontario eggs, concentrations of PCBs, p,p'-DDE and dieldrin increased significantly between 1984 and 1991.

Differences were also found in patterns of temporal variation in contamination between herring gulls (Larus argentatus) and snapping turtles which were attributed to differences in diet. Elevated and continued contamination in turtle eggs from Lake Ontario is probably due to a combination of local sources of chemicals and consumption of large migratory fish that spawn in wetlands inhabited by these turtles.