Body burdens of heavy metals in Lake Michigan wetland turtles

  • Dayna L. SmithEmail author
  • Matthew J. Cooper
  • Jessica M. Kosiara
  • Gary A. Lamberti


Tissue heavy metal concentrations in painted (Chrysemys picta) and snapping (Chelydra serpentina) turtles from Lake Michigan coastal wetlands were analyzed to determine (1) whether turtles accumulated heavy metals, (2) if tissue metal concentrations were related to environmental metal concentrations, and (3) the potential for non-lethal sampling techniques to be used for monitoring heavy metal body burdens in freshwater turtles. Muscle, liver, shell, and claw samples were collected from painted and snapping turtles and analyzed for cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, lead, magnesium, manganese, and zinc. Turtle tissues had measurable quantities of all eight metals analyzed. Statistically significant correlations between tissue metal concentrations and sediment metal concentrations were found for a subset of metals. Metals were generally found in higher concentrations in the larger snapping turtles than in painted turtles. In addition, non-lethal samples of shell and claw were found to be possible alternatives to lethal liver and muscle samples for some metals. Human consumption of snapping turtles presents potential health risks if turtles are harvested from contaminated areas. Overall, our results suggest that turtles could be a valuable component of contaminant monitoring programs for wetland ecosystems.


Coastal wetland Toxicant Consumption advisory Non-lethal tissue sampling 



We thank Michael Brueseke and Jon Loftus for field and laboratory assistance. The University of Notre Dame Center for Environmental Science and Technology provided instrumentation and support for metal analyses. Funding for this study was provided by a College of Science Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (COS-SURF) from the University of Notre Dame to DLS and by the Great Lakes National Program Office under the US Environmental Protection Agency (grant number GL-00E00612-0). This research was conducted under University of Notre Dame IACUC protocol 14-039. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dayna L. Smith
    • 2
    Email author
  • Matthew J. Cooper
    • 3
  • Jessica M. Kosiara
    • 4
  • Gary A. Lamberti
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Notre DameNotre DameUSA
  2. 2.Present Address: Department of BiologyWestern Illinois UniversityMacombUSA
  3. 3.Present Address: Mary Griggs Burke Center for Freshwater InnovationNorthland CollegeAshlandUSA
  4. 4.Present Address: Institute for Great Lakes Research, Department of BiologyCentral Michigan UniversityMt. PleasantUSA

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