Atrazine and glyphosate dynamics in a lotic ecosystem: the common snapping turtle as a sentinel species

  • Derrick L. Douros
  • Karen F. GainesEmail author
  • James M. Novak


Atrazine and glyphosate are two of the most common pesticides used in the US Midwest that impact water quality via runoff, and the common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) is an excellent indicator species to monitor these pesticides especially in lotic systems. The goals of this study were to (1) quantify atrazine, the atrazine metabolite diaminochlorotriazine (DACT), and glyphosate burdens in common snapping turtle tissue from individuals collected within the Embarras River in Illinois; (2) quantify atrazine, DACT, and glyphosate loads in water from the aquatic habitats in which common snapping turtles reside; and (3) investigate tissue loads based on turtle morphology and habitat choice. Concentrations of atrazine, DACT, and glyphosate in tissue did not show any relationship with lake habitat, carapace length, width, or mass. Both atrazine and glyphosate tissue samples varied as a function of site (river vs. lake), but DACT did not. Atrazine and glyphosate concentrations in water samples showed a linear effect on distance from the reservoir spillway and a deviation from linearity. Water column concentrations of all three contaminants varied across capture sites, but atrazine water concentration did not influence DACT water concentration nor did it exhibit a site interaction. Water atrazine and glyphosate concentrations were greater than tissue concentrations, whereas DACT water and tissue concentrations did not differ. This study showed that turtles are useful in long-term pesticide monitoring, and because DACT as a metabolite is less sensitive to variation, it should be considered as a preferred biomarker for pesticide runoff.


Atrazine DACT Glyphosate Pesticide Snapping turtle 



We would like to thank Dr. Stephen J. Mullin for reviewing earlier versions of this manuscript. Funding for this project was contributed by The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), the Eastern Illinois University Graduate School, and Department of Biological Sciences. We also thank the City of Charleston, Illinois, and landowners that gave permission to access their property for sample and data collection. Samples and data were collected under authorization of IDNR Scientific Collection Permits #NH08.5194 and #NH09.5194. Animal collection and handling was performed under the authorization of Eastern Illinois University’s Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee Protocol # 08-008. We also thank B. Bluett, P. Brewer, D. Brown, R. Jansen, B. Jones, M. Mounce, and Dr. E. Tuttle for the use of equipment and supplies. We also thank those that helped with sample collection in the field and sample processing in the laboratory: K. Baumgartner, C. Bobryk, A. Datt, P. Edwards, D. Hiatt, H. Kaur, D. Kumar, J. Laird, and P. Salvadori. The manuscript was greatly improved by two anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Derrick L. Douros
    • 1
  • Karen F. Gaines
    • 1
    Email author
  • James M. Novak
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesEastern Illinois UniversityCharlestonUSA

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