Organic pollutants in penguins

Adelie penguins in the Antarctic (by Jeff Goldman)

I found some evidence of organic pollutants in penguin guano, which means that the penguins are ingesting or absorbing the pollutants.

Adrian Covaci at the University of Antwerp, Belgium, and colleagues found unexpectedly high levels of organic pollutants in the soil around a colony of non-migratory Adelie penguins in the Antarctic.

Concerns about organic pollutant levels in the Antarctic have led to intensive studies into how they reach this remote region, said Covaci. The pollutants originate from man-made sources such as organochlorine pesticides and brominated flame retardants, he explained. The routes through which they normally travel are air and ocean currents. Recent studies have shown that migrating birds can also transport organic pollutants to the Antarctic in their body tissues, added Covaci.

Covaci’s study shows that non-migratory penguins are also redistributing organic contaminants on a local scale, resulting in levels 10 to 100 fold higher than expected in the soil around their colonies.

Covaci suggests that penguins are initially exposed to the contaminants by eating polluted fish, which have been contaminated through the food chain. Bioaccumulation means that the penguins have high levels of contaminants in their bodies.

No wonder the Antarctic snows show pollution!

Royal Society of Chemistry (2007, August 7). Penguin Guano Shows Problem of Pollution. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 10, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2007/08/070805135910.htm

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