Trace Element Concentrations in Blood and Scute Tissues from Wild and Captive Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas)

Katherine R. Shaw, Jennifer M. Lynch, George H. Balazs, T. Todd Jones, Jeff Pawloski, Marc R. Rice, Amanda D. French, Jing Liu, George P. Cobb, David M. Klein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Sea turtles are exposed to trace elements through water, sediment, and food. Exposure to these elements has been shown to decrease immune function, impair growth, and decrease reproductive output in wildlife. The present study compares trace element concentrations in green turtles in captivity at Sea Life Park Hawaii (n = 6) to wild green turtles in Kapoho Bay, Hawaii, USA (n = 5–7). Blood and scute samples were collected and analyzed for 11 elements via inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Selenium was significantly greater (p < 0.05) in the blood of captive turtles compared with wild turtles, whereas V, Ni, and Pb were significantly greater in the blood of wild turtles. In scute, V, Cu, Se, and Cr were significantly greater in captive turtles, whereas As was significantly greater in wild turtles. Pelleted food fed to the captive turtles and representative samples of the wild turtle diet were analyzed via ICP-MS to calculate trophic transfer factors and daily intake values. Wild turtles had greater estimated daily intake than captive turtles for all elements except Cu and Se. Because captive turtles are fed a diet very different from that of their wild counterparts, captive turtles do not represent control or reference samples for chemical exposure studies in wild turtles. No toxic thresholds are known for sea turtles, but rehabilitation and managed care facilities should monitor sea turtle elemental concentrations to ensure the animals' health. Environ Toxicol Chem 2021;40:208–218.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-218
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Toxicology and Chemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Aquarium
  • Captive
  • Hawaii
  • Heavy metals
  • Marine turtle
  • Reptile


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