Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 209-213

First online:

Trace element levels in pine snake hatchlings: Tissue and temporal differences

  • Joanna BurgerAffiliated withBiological Sciences, Rutgers University, and Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute

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Trace element levels have seldom been examined in reptiles, although some large snakes are high on the trophic level pyramid. Lead, cadmium, mercury, selenium, chromium and manganese levels were examined in skin and whole body tissue of pine snakes (Pituophis melanoleucus) from the New Jersey Pine Barrens between 1985–1990. Depending on the element, variations in levels were primarily explained by year and tissue, and not by sex or location. There were significantly higher levels of lead, mercury, and chromium in the skin compared to the whole body tissue, suggesting that the frequent shedding of skin can act as a method of toxic metal excretion by snakes. Manganese and selenium levels were significantly higher in the body compared to the skin.