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A Survey of Pesticide Accumulation in a Specialist Feeder, the Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

Abstract

To maintain profitability in Australia’s agricultural and urban landscapes pesticides are used throughout the range of koala habitats. The koala is a specialist feeder, reliant on metabolic enzyme capacities to utilise a toxic diet of eucalypt leaves and is potentially prone to adverse effects when xenobiotic interactions between dietary and anthropogenic xenobiotics occur. The aim of this study was to investigate accumulation of frequently used pesticides in wild koalas in 4 areas of New South Wales and Queensland. Liver samples of 57 deceased koalas were collected from care facilities and analysed using a modified QuEChERS extraction method followed by GCMSMS, HRLCMS and LCMSMS. No accumulation of any of the 166 investigated pesticides was found. Data indicate hepatic accumulation of pesticides in this species is uncommon even with close interactions with intensive land use. Despite the lack of hepatic bioaccumulation, this study cannot exclude a direct effect on hepatocellular metabolic pathways.

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Acknowledgements

Specimens were provided by Allen Pearson (Friends of the Koala, Lismore, NSW); Cheyne Flanagan (Koala Preservation Society of Australia, Port Macquarie, NSW), David Phalen (Faculty of Veterinary Science ,The University of Sydney, NSW); Peter Theileman, Rebecca Larkin at Moggill Koala Hospital, Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Moggill, Queensland and Steve Johnston, University of Queensland. This work was supported by the Whitehead Bequest. Caroline Marschner’s position was partially supported by the Koala Health Hub, University of Sydney.

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Correspondence to Caroline Marschner.

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Marschner, C., Higgins, D.P. & Krockenberger, M.B. A Survey of Pesticide Accumulation in a Specialist Feeder, the Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). Bull Environ Contam Toxicol 99, 303–307 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00128-017-2140-4

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Keywords

  • Pesticide
  • Survey
  • Koala
  • Cytochrome P450
  • Xenobiotic metabolism