Concentrations and profiles of organochlorine contaminants in North Pacific resident and transient killer whale (Orcinus orca) populations
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Concentrations and profiles of organochlorine contaminants in North Pacific resident and transient killer whale (Orcinus orca) populations

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  • Journal Title:
    Science of The Total Environment
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    Organochlorine (OC) profiles have been used as chemical “fingerprints” to infer an animal's foraging area. North Pacific killer whale (Orcinus orca) populations are exposed to different levels and patterns of OCs based on their prey, distribution, and amount of time spent in a particular area. To characterize concentrations and profiles of OCs found in various populations of North Pacific killer whales, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), including dioxin-like congeners, DDTs, and hexachlorobenzene (HCB), were measured in biopsy blubber samples of photo-identified resident (fish-eating) and transient (mammal-eating) killer whales collected from 1994 through 2002 from Russian Far East waters to the waters of the west coast of the United States, representing 10 populations. We compared blubber OC concentrations based on ecotype (resident vs. transient), sex and reproductive maturity, and geographic area. We also examined OC mixtures to determine if we could detect segregated geographical areas (foraging areas) among the six populations with sufficient sample sizes. Transients had significantly higher OC concentrations than residents and adult male whales had consistently higher OC levels compared to adult females, regardless of ecotype. Our OC profile findings indicate segregated foraging areas for the North Pacific killer whales, consistent with observations of their geographic distributions. Several potential health risks have also been associated with exposure to high levels of contaminants in top-level predators including reproductive impairment, immune suppression, skeletal deformities, and carcinoma. The results of this baseline study provide information on the geographic distribution of OCs found in North Pacific killer whales, results which are crucial for assessing the potential health risks associated with OC exposure in this species.
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    Science of The Total Environment, 722, 137776
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    Accepted Manuscript
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