[MARMAM] New publication: Mercury concentrations in blubber and skin from stranded bottlenose dolphins along the Florida and Louisiana coasts

McCormack, Meaghan A mmccormack at txstate.edu
Mon Dec 2 10:03:18 PST 2019

Dear MARMAM list members,

My coauthors and I are pleased to share our recent publication in *Environmental Research*

Mercury concentrations in blubber and skin from stranded bottlenose dolphins (*Tursiops truncatus*) along the Florida and Louisiana coasts (Gulf of Mexico, USA) in relation to biological variables

Meaghan A. McCormack, Francesca Battaglia, Wayne E. McFee, Jessica Dutton

Abstract: Due to their long life-span and top trophic position, odontocetes can accumulate high concentrations of mercury (Hg) in their tissues. This study measured the concentration of total Hg (THg) in the blubber and skin of bottlenose dolphins (*Tursiops truncatus*) that stranded along the Florida (FL) panhandle and Louisiana (LA) coasts and investigated the relationship between total Hg (THg) concentration and sex, body length, age, stranding location, diet/trophic position (δ13C and δ15N, respectively), and foraging habitat (δ34S). Additionally, we compared models using body length and age as explanatory variables to determine which was a better predictor of THg concentration. In both tissues, sex was not an influential predictor of THg concentration and there was a positive relationship between body length/age and THg concentration (p < 0.001). Florida dolphins had greater mean blubber and skin THg concentrations compared to LA dolphins (p < 0.001). There was a modest improvement in model fit when age was used in place of body length. δ13C, δ15N, and δ34S differed between stranding locations and together with age were significant predictors of THg concentrations (R2 = 0.52, p < 0.001). Florida dolphins were δ13C enriched compared to LA dolphins (p < 0.001) and THg concentrations were positively correlated with δ13C (R2 = 0.22, p < 0.001). Our results demonstrate spatial variability in THg concentrations from stranded bottlenose dolphins from the northern Gulf of Mexico; however, future research is required to understand how fine-scale population structuring of dolphins within FL and LA impacts THg concentrations, particularly among inshore (bay, sound, and estuary) stocks and between inshore and offshore stocks, as variations in biotic and abiotic conditions can influence both stable isotope ratios and THg concentrations.

This paper is currently in press and is available using the following link:



Meaghan McCormack

Meaghan McCormack

PhD candidate

Texas State University

601 University Drive

San Marcos, TX 78666

email: mmccormack at txstate.edu

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