Utility of fur as a biomarker for persistent organic pollutants in Australian fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus).
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) can cause toxic effects in many species which include endocrine dysfunction, immunotoxicity, developmental defects and neoplasia. Species dominating the upper trophic level are vulnerable to these effects due to bioaccumulation. In Bass Strait, the Australian fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus) is an important top order predator and sentinel species for ecosystem health. An alopecia syndrome is seen at high prevalence in juvenile, female Australian fur seals at Lady Julia Percy Island, Victoria, Australia. Previous investigations suggest causality could be due to an endocrine-like toxicant. The alopecia syndrome has significance for thermoregulation and is a likely risk factor for mortality. Fur collected from case (alopecic) and control (unaffected) seals sampled at Lady Julia Percy Island were analysed for POPs. To investigate the utility of fur for monitoring POPs concentrations in pinnipeds, a comparison of POPs concentrations in the fur and blubber of Australian fur seals stranded along the Victorian coast was undertaken. The concentration of selected POPs including polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs), dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (dl-PCBs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and perfluorooctane sulfonate/perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOS/PFOA) were determined in fur using either High Resolution Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry or Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry. Results indicate detectable, and in some individuals, elevated levels of dl-PCBs, PCDD/Fs and PBDEs in juvenile fur seals sampled on Lady Julia Percy Island, with significantly higher levels of dl-PCBs in case compared to control seals. Elevated levels of dl-PCBs and PCDD/Fs were found in blubber samples collected from stranded fur seals with significant correlations between blubber and fur concentrations seen, particularly for dl-PCBs. This study discusses the significance of POPs concentrations in relation to the causality of an alopecia syndrome in the Australian fur seal, and assesses the utility of fur as a non-invasive biomarker to monitor POPs exposure in this sentinel species.
Taylor, S; Lynch, M; Terkildsen, M; Stevenson, G; Yates, A; Piro, N; de Araujo, J; Gray, R
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