SREL Reprint #2559




Nondestructive indices of trace element exposure in squamate reptiles

W. A. Hopkins1,2, J. H. Roe1, J. W. Snodgrass3, B. P. Jackson1, D. E. Kling1, C. L. Rowe4,
and J.D. Congdon1

1Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, University of Georgia, Aiken, SC 29802, USA
2Department of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC USA
3Department of Biology, Towson University, Towson, MD, USA
4University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, PO Box 38, Solomons, MD 20688, USA

Abstract: Compared with birds, mammals, fish, and even amphibians, very little is known about the effects of contaminants on reptiles. Recent evidence that many reptile populations may be declining has stimulated demand for toxicological studies of reptiles as well as development of nondestructive sampling techniques useful for assessing and monitoring contaminant exposure. The current study experimentally evaluated the utility of shed skins, tail clips, and blood samples as nondestructive indices of trace element exposure in banded water snakes, Nerodita fasciata. For 13.5 months, snakes were either fed fish from a coal ash-contaminated site or uncontaminated food from a reference site. Snakes fed contaminated prey accumulated As, Cd, Se, Sr, and V in various organs (i.e. liver, kidney, and/or gonads). Moreover, non-parametric discriminant function analysis revealed that snakes could be placed in two groups that reliably reflected their experimental diet based upon Se, Sr, and As concentrations in tail clips, blood, and/or shed skins. We suggest that nondestructive sampling techniques, particularly analyses of blood and tail clips, may be easily applied in evaluations of contaminant exposure in the field and laboratory and may prevent excessive destructive sampling of potentially threatened reptile species.

Keywords: Reptiles; Snakes; Coal combustion; Selenium; Nondestructive indices

SREL Reprint #2559

Hopkins, W. A., J. H. Roe, J. W. Snodgrass, B. P. Jackson, D. E. Kling, C. L. Rowe, and J. D. Congdon. 2001. Nondestructive indices of trace element exposure in squamate reptiles. Environmental Pollution 115:1-7.

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