Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) in Blubber of Free-Ranging Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops Truncatus) from Two Southeast Atlantic Estuarine Areas

Abstract

Blubber tissue samples from bottlenose dolphins collected during the summers of 2003 and 2004 were screened for 13 (17, 28, 47, 66, 71, 85, 99, 100, 138, 154, 153, 183, 190) polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) from dolphin populations in the Indian River Lagoon, FL (n = 58) and the Charleston Harbor estuary, SC (n = 53). Within each population, we investigated contaminant levels of PBDEs and the effects of factors including age, sex, the interaction of age and sex, and location. Six PBDE congeners (28, 47, 99, 100, 153, and 154) were routinely detected in all samples using gas chromatography/mass spectometry methods. Significantly higher (p ≤ 0.0001) mean ΣPBDE blubber concentrations were observed for Charleston dolphins (\( \overline{X} \) = 5,860 ng/g lipid; range = 429–22,780 ng/g lipid) when compared to Indian River Lagoon dolphins (\( \overline{X} \) = 1,260 ng/g lipid; range = 195–3,790 ng/g lipid). PBDE 47 was the major congener representing ∼61% of the ΣPBDE in both dolphin populations, followed by BDE100, BDE154, BDE99, BDE153, and BDE28, respectively. Significantly higher (p < 0.0001) mean ΣPBDE were observed in adult male dolphins compared to pregnant and adult female dolphins at both sites, with gender differences two-fold in the Indian River Lagoon and twelve-fold for Charleston. For Charleston dolphins, the juveniles in addition to the adult males also had significantly higher levels compared to pregnant and adult females. This study establishes baseline levels of PBDEs in bottlenose dolphins for these two areas and is the first assessment of PBDEs in free-ranging dolphins. The levels of PBDEs in Charleston dolphins represent some of the highest measured in marine mammals and warrants further investigation of these emerging, bioaccumulative chemicals and their potential deleterious effects.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the numerous researchers who participated in the dolphin capture and release studies in South Carolina and Florida. We are especially grateful to Dr. Forrest Townsend, Mr. Larry Fulford, Mr. Larry Hansen, Mr. Steve McCulloch, the NOAA and HBOI staff and all of the veterinarians who provided their expertise, and the many volunteers whose help made the health assessment studies possible. Thanks are extended to the following reviewers: Dr. John Reif, Dr.Mike Fulton, and Dr. Malcolm Meaburn. This study was conducted under National Marine Fisheries Permit No. 998-1678-00, issued to Gregory Bossart, VMD, PhD of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in March 2003.

This study was supported through NOAA/NCCOS/CCEHBR, NOAA Fisheries Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program and the Florida Protect Wild Dolphins License Plate Fund.

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Fair, P.A., Mitchum, G., Hulsey, T.C. et al. Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) in Blubber of Free-Ranging Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops Truncatus) from Two Southeast Atlantic Estuarine Areas. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 53, 483–494 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00244-006-0244-7

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Keywords

  • Brominated flame retardants
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers
  • PBDEs
  • Bottlenose dolphin
  • Tursiops truncatus