Trace metals in green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) inhabiting two southern California coastal estuaries.


Department of Biological Sciences, California State University, Long Beach, USA. Electronic address: [Email]


Foraging aggregations of east Pacific green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) inhabit the Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge (SBNWR) and San Diego Bay (SDB), two habitats in southern California, USA, located near urbanized areas. Both juvenile and adult green turtles forage in these areas and exhibit high site fidelity, which potentially exposes green turtles to anthropogenic contaminants. We assessed 21 trace metals (TM) bioaccumulated in green turtle scute and red blood cell (RBC) samples collected from SBNWR (n = 16 turtles) and SDB (n = 20 turtles) using acid digestion and inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Principal component analyses of TM composition indicate that SBNWR and SDB turtles have location-specific contaminant signatures, characterized by differences in cadmium and selenium concentrations: SBNWR turtles had significantly more cadmium and selenium in RBC and more selenium in scute samples, than SDB turtles. Cadmium and selenium concentrations in RBC had a strong positive relationship, regardless of location. SBNWR turtles had higher selenium in RBCs than previously measured in other green turtle populations globally. Due to different retention times in blood vs. scute, these results suggest that SBNWR turtles have high long- and short-term selenium exposure. Turtles from SBNWR and SDB had higher trace metal concentrations than documented in green turtle populations that inhabit non-urbanized areas, supporting the hypothesis that coastal cities can increase trace metal exposure to local green turtles. Our study finds evidence that green turtle TM concentrations can differ between urbanized habitats and that long-term monitoring of these green turtles may be necessary.



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