Vitellogenin induction has been widely used as a biomarker of endocrine disruption in wildlife, but few studies have investigated its use in wild reptiles living in contaminated habitats. This study examined vitellogenin induction in Morelet's crocodiles (Crocodylus moreletii) from wetlands in northern Belize contaminated with organochlorine (OC) pesticides. Vitellogenin was measured in 381 crocodile plasma samples using a vitellogenin ELISA previously developed for this species. Vitellogenin was detected in nine samples, all from adult females sampled during the breeding season. Males and juvenile females did not contain detectable levels of vitellogenin; however, many of these animals contained OC pesticides in their caudal scutes, confirming contaminant exposure. The lack of a vitellogenic response in these animals may be attributable to several factors related to the timing and magnitude of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and should not be interpreted as an absence of other contaminant-induced biological responses.
- Endocrine disruption
- Organochlorine pesticides