Accumulation and Selective Maternal Transfer of Contaminants in the Turtle Trachemys scripta Associated with Coal Ash Deposition
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Coal combustion wastes are enriched in a number of potentially toxic compounds and may pose risks to biota exposed to the wastes. Slider turtles (Trachemys scripta) are common inhabitants of coal ash settling basins in South Carolina, USA, where they feed on contaminated prey items and accumulate high levels of potentially toxic compounds in their tissues. Furthermore, female sliders sometimes nest in contaminated spill piles and thus may expose embryos to contaminated soils. We examined two potential pathways by which female T. scripta may influence the survivorship and quality of their offspring in a contaminated habitat: (1) nesting in contaminated soil and (2) maternal transfer of pollutants. Eggs were collected from turtles captured in coal ash–polluted or unpolluted sites; individual clutches were incubated in both ash-contaminated and uncontaminated soil in outdoor, artificial nests. Incubation in contaminated soil was associated with reduced embryo survivorship. Adult females from the polluted site accumulated high levels of As, Cd, Cr, and Se in their tissues, yet Se was the only element transferred maternally to hatchlings at relatively high levels. Hatchlings from polluted-site females exhibited reduced O2 consumption rates compared to hatchlings from reference sites. Relatively high levels of Se transferred to hatchlings by females at the ash-polluted site might contribute to the observed differences in hatchling physiology.
KeywordsPrey Item Polluted Site Embryo Survivorship Coal Combustion Waste Uncontaminated Soil
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