Metals and organochlorine pesticides in caudal scutes of crocodiles from Belize and Costa Rica

Thomas R. Rainwater, Ted H. Wu, Adam G. Finger, Jaclyn E. Cañas, Lu Yu, Kevin D. Reynolds, Gopal Coimbatore, Brady Barr, Steven G. Platt, George P. Cobb, Todd A. Anderson, Scott T. McMurry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Despite high animal diversity in the Neotropics and the largely unregulated use and disposal of pesticides and industrial chemicals in Central America, few data exist regarding accumulation of environmental contaminants in Central American wildlife. In this study we examined accumulation of metals and organochlorine (OC) pesticides in caudal scutes of crocodiles from Belize and Costa Rica. Scutes from Morelet's crocodiles (Crocodylus moreletii) from two sites in northern Belize were analyzed for metals, and scutes from American crocodiles (C. acutus) from one site in Costa Rica were analyzed for metals and OC pesticides. All scutes (n = 25; one scute from each of 25 individuals) contained multiple contaminants. Mercury was the predominant metal detected, occurring in all scutes examined from both species. Other metals detected include cadmium, copper, lead, and zinc. American crocodile scutes from Costa Rica contained multiple OC pesticides, including endrin, methoxychlor, p,p′-DDE, and p,p′-DDT, all of which occurred in 100% of scutes analyzed (n = 6). Mean metal and OC concentrations varied in relation to those previously reported in crocodilian scutes from other localities in North, Central, and South America. OC concentrations in American crocodile scutes were generally higher than those previously reported for other Costa Rican wildlife. Currently, caudal scutes may serve as general, non-lethal indicators of contaminant accumulation in crocodilians and their areas of occurrence. However, a better understanding of the relationships between pollutant concentrations in scutes, internal tissues, and environmental matrices at sample collection sites are needed to improve the utility of scutes in future ecotoxicological investigations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-156
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2007


  • American crocodile
  • Belize
  • Central America
  • Costa Rica
  • Metals
  • Morelet's crocodile
  • Non-lethal sampling
  • Organochlorine pesticides
  • Scutes


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