Effects of environmental contaminants on snapping turtles of a tidal wetland

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Abstract

Snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) were collected from a brackish-water and a nearly freshwater area in the contaminated Hackensack Meadowlands of New Jersey and an uncontaminated freshwater area in Maryland to determine the effects of environmental contaminants on a resident wetland species. No turtles were observed or caught in the Meadowlands at two trapping sites that were the most heavily contaminated by metals. Snapping turtles from the brackish-water area had an unusually low lipid content of body fat and reduced growth compared to turtles from the fresh-water areas in New Jersey and Maryland. Despite the serious metal contamination of the Hackensack Meadowlands, the metal content of kidneys and livers from New Jersey turtles was low and not greatly different from that of the Maryland turtles. Organochlorine pesticide concentrations in body fat were generally low at all three study areas. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) concentrations in fat were highest in male turtles from the New Jersey brackish-water area. Analysis of blood for amino-levulinic acid dehydratase, albumin, glucose, hemoglobin, osmolality, packed cell volume, total protein, triglycerides, and uric acid failed to reveal any differences among groups that would indicate physiological impairment related to contaminants.