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Health and Environmental Risk Assessment Project for bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus from the southeastern USA. II. Environmental aspects
  • Published Date:
  • Source:
    Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, 125(2), 155-166.
Filetype[PDF-308.57 KB]

  • Description:
    Bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus are the most common apex predators found in coastal and estuarine ecosystems along the southeastern coast of the USA, where these animals are exposed to multiple chemical pollutants and microbial agents. In this review, we summarize the results of investigations of environmental exposures evaluated in 360 free-ranging dolphins between 2003 and 2015. Bottlenose dolphins inhabiting the Indian River Lagoon, Florida (IRL, n = 246), and coastal waters of Charleston, South Carolina (CHS, n = 114), were captured, given comprehensive health examinations, and released as part of a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional study of individual and population health. High concentrations of persistent organic pollutants including legacy contaminants (DDT and other pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyl compounds) as well as 'emerging' contaminants (polybrominated diphenyl ethers, perfluorinated compounds) were detected in dolphins from CHS, with lower concentrations in the IRL. Conversely, the concentrations of mercury in the blood and skin of IRL dolphins were among the highest reported worldwide and approximately 5 times as high as those found in CHS dolphins. A high prevalence of resistance to antibiotics commonly used in humans and animals was detected in bacteria isolated from fecal, blowhole, and/or gastric samples at both sites, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) at CHS. Collectively, these studies illustrate the importance of long-term surveillance of estuarine populations of bottlenose dolphins and reaffirm their important role as sentinels for marine ecosystems and public health.
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