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,
River Ecology Laboratory, University of Georgia, Aiken, SC 29802, 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.