Differences in marine megafauna in vitro sensitivity highlights the need for species-specific chemical risk assessments


Sea turtles, dolphins and dugongs can be exposed to large mixtures of contaminants due to the proximity of foraging locations to anthropogenic inputs. Differences in accumulation and effect result in differences of chemical risk to these species. However, little is known about the effect of contaminants in marine wildlife. Cell-based, or in vitro, exposure experiments offer an ethical alternative to investigate the effect of contaminants in wildlife. Data from in vitro studies can then be placed in an environmental context, by using screening risk assessments, comparing effect data with accumulation data from the literature, to identify risk to populations of marine wildlife. Cytotoxicity of Cr6+, Cd2+, Hg2+, 4,4′-DDE, and PFNA were investigated in primary skin fibroblasts of green turtles, loggerhead turtles, hawksbill turtles, dugongs, Burrunan dolphins, and common bottlenose dolphins. The general order of toxicity for all species was Hg2+> Cr6+ > Cd2+> 4,4′-DDE > PFNA, and significant differences in cytotoxicity were found between species for Cr6+, Cd2+ and PFNA. For Cd2+, in particular, cells from turtle species were less sensitive than mammalian species, and dugong cells were by far the most sensitive. The results from the cytotoxicity assay were then used in combination with published data on tissue contaminant concentrations to calculate risk quotients for identifying populations of each species most at risk from these chemicals. Cr, Cd and Hg were identified as posing risk in all six species. Dugongs were particularly at risk from Cd accumulation and dolphin species were particularly at risk from Hg accumulation. These results demonstrate the importance of using species-specific effect and accumulation data for developing chemical risk assessments and can be used to inform managers of priority contaminants, species, or populations. Development of additional in vitro endpoints, and improving links between in vitro and in vivo effects, would further improve this approach to understanding chemical risk in marine megafauna.

Authors: Kimberly A Finlayson, Jason P van de Merwe
; Full Source: Aquatic toxicology (Amsterdam, Netherlands) 2021 Aug 20;239:105939. doi: 10.1016/j.aquatox.2021.105939.