Local contamination, and not feeding preferences, explains elevated PCB concentrations in Labrador ringed seals (Pusa hispida).Sci Total Environ. 2015 May 15; 515-516:188-97.ST
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in high trophic level species typically reflect the contributions of myriad sources, such that source apportionment is rarely possible. The release of PCBs by a military radar station into Saglek Bay, Labrador contaminated the local marine food web. For instance, while heavier (higher chlorinated) PCB profiles in some ringed seals (Pusa hispida) were previously attributed to this local source, differences in feeding preferences among seals could not be ruled out as a contributing factor. Herein, similar fatty acid profiles between those seals with 'local' PCB profiles and those with 'long-range' or background profiles indicate little support for the possibility that differential feeding ecologies underlay the divergent PCB profiles. Ringed seals appeared to feed predominantly on zooplankton (Mysis oculata and Themisto libellula), followed by the dusky snailfish (Liparis gibbus), arctic cod (Boreogadus saida), and shorthorn sculpin (Myoxocephalus scorpius). Principal components analysis (PCA) and PCB homolog profiles illustrated the extent of contamination of the Saglek food web, which had very different (and much heavier) PCB profiles than those food web members contaminated by 'long-range' sources. Locally contaminated prey had PCB levels that were higher (2- to 544-fold) than prey contaminated by 'long-range' sources and exceeded wildlife consumption guidelines for PCBs. The application of multivariate analyses to two distinct datasets, including PCB congeners (n=50) and fatty acids (n=65), afforded the opportunity to clearly distinguish the contribution of locally-released PCBs to a ringed seal food web from those delivered via long-ranged transport. Results from the present study strongly suggest that habitat use rather than differences in prey selection is the primary mechanism explaining the divergent PCB patterns in Labrador ringed seals.