Maternal transfer of trace elements in leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) of French Guiana

  • Guirlet E
  • Das K
  • Girondot M
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In sea turtles, parental investment is limited to the nutrients and energy invested in eggs that will support embryonic development. Leatherback females have the largest clutches with the biggest eggs of the sea turtles and the highest reproductive output in reptiles. The migration between foraging sites and nesting beaches also represents high energy expenditure. The toxicokinetic of pollutants in the tissues is thus expected to vary during those periods but there is a lack of information in reptiles. Concentrations of essential (Copper, Zinc, Selenium) and non-essentials elements (Cadmium, Lead, Mercury) were determined in blood (n = 78) and eggs (n = 76) of 46 free-ranging leatherback females collected in French Guiana. Maternal transfer to eggs and relationships between blood and eggs concentrations during the nesting season were investigated. All trace elements were detectable in both tissues. Levels of toxic metals were lower than essential elements likely due to the high pelagic nature of leatherbacks that seems to limit exposure to toxic elements. Significant relationships between blood and egg concentrations were observed for Se and Cd. Se could have an important role in embryonic development of leatherback turtles and Cd transfer could be linked to similar carrier proteins as Se. Finally, as multiple clutches were sampled from each female, trends in trace elements were investigated along the nesting season. No change was observed in eggs but changes were recorded in blood concentrations of Cu. Cu level decreased while blood Pb levels increased through the nesting season. The high demand on the body during the breeding season seems to affect blood Cu concentrations. Calcium requirement for egg production with concomitant Pb mobilization could explain the increase in blood Pb concentrations along the nesting season. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Blood
  • Dermochelys coriacea
  • Eggs
  • Marine turtles
  • Maternal transfer
  • Metal contamination

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