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Age- and sex-dependent distribution of persistent organochlorine pollutants in urban foxes


Dip, R; Hegglin, D; Deplazes, P; Dafflon, O; Koch, H; Naegeli, H (2003). Age- and sex-dependent distribution of persistent organochlorine pollutants in urban foxes. Environmental Health Perspectives, 111(13):1608-1612.

Abstract

The colonization of urban and suburban habitats by red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) provides a novel sentinel species to monitor the spread of anthropogenic pollutants in densely populated human settlements. Here, red foxes were collected in the municipal territory of Zürich, Switzerland, and their perirenal adipose tissue was examined for persistent organochlorine residues. This pilot study revealed an unexpected pattern of contamination by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), with significantly higher levels of the predominant congeners PCB-138, PCB-153, and PCB-180 in juvenile foxes relative to adult animals. Further data analysis demonstrated that the observed difference was attributable to an age-dependent reduction of PCB concentrations in females, whereas male foxes retained approximately the same PCB burden throughout their life span. A similar sex-related bias between population members has been observed, primarily in marine mammals. Interestingly, the reduction of organochlorine contents with progressive age is reminiscent of human studies, where an extensive maternal transfer of xenobiotics to the offspring has been shown to result in increased exposure levels of infants relative to adults. To our knowledge, this is the first example of an urban wildlife species that faithfully reflects the dynamic distribution of toxic contaminants in the corresponding human population. Suburban and urban foxes occupy habitats in close proximity to humans, depend on anthropogenic food supplies, are relatively long-lived and readily available for sampling, can be easily aged and sexed, have a limited home range, and, therefore, meet several important requirements to serve as a surrogate species for the assessment of toxic health hazards.

The colonization of urban and suburban habitats by red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) provides a novel sentinel species to monitor the spread of anthropogenic pollutants in densely populated human settlements. Here, red foxes were collected in the municipal territory of Zürich, Switzerland, and their perirenal adipose tissue was examined for persistent organochlorine residues. This pilot study revealed an unexpected pattern of contamination by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), with significantly higher levels of the predominant congeners PCB-138, PCB-153, and PCB-180 in juvenile foxes relative to adult animals. Further data analysis demonstrated that the observed difference was attributable to an age-dependent reduction of PCB concentrations in females, whereas male foxes retained approximately the same PCB burden throughout their life span. A similar sex-related bias between population members has been observed, primarily in marine mammals. Interestingly, the reduction of organochlorine contents with progressive age is reminiscent of human studies, where an extensive maternal transfer of xenobiotics to the offspring has been shown to result in increased exposure levels of infants relative to adults. To our knowledge, this is the first example of an urban wildlife species that faithfully reflects the dynamic distribution of toxic contaminants in the corresponding human population. Suburban and urban foxes occupy habitats in close proximity to humans, depend on anthropogenic food supplies, are relatively long-lived and readily available for sampling, can be easily aged and sexed, have a limited home range, and, therefore, meet several important requirements to serve as a surrogate species for the assessment of toxic health hazards.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Institute of Parasitology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Parasitology

05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Institute of Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
610 Medicine & health
600 Technology
Language:English
Date:28 July 2003
Deposited On:25 Mar 2009 07:18
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 13:03
Publisher:National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
ISSN:0091-6765
Funders:Swiss Federal Office of Veterinary Medicine
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.6226
PubMed ID:14527839
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-14508

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