Concentrations of organochlorine contaminants in the adipose tissue of polar bears (Ursus maritimus Phipps, 1774) vary throughout the Arctic. The range in concentrations has not been explained fully by bear age, sex, condition, location, or reproductive status. Dietary pathways expose polar bears to a variety of contaminant profiles and concentrations. Prey range from lower trophic level bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus L., 1758), one of the least contaminated marine mammals, to highly contaminated upper trophic level ringed seals (Phoca hispida (Schreber, 1775)). We used ??15N and ??13C signatures to estimate the trophic status of 42 polar bears sampled along Alaska's Beaufort Sea coast to determine the relationship between organochlorine concentration and trophic level. The ?? 15N values in the cellular portions of blood ranged from 18.2% to 20.7%. We found strong positive relationships between concentrations of the most recalcitrant polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and ??15N values in models incorporating age, lipid content, and ??13C value. Specifically these models accounted for 67% and 76% of the variation in PCB153 and oxychlordane concentration in male polar bears and 85% and 93% in females, respectively. These results are strong indicators of variation in diet and biomagnification of organochlorines among polar bears related to their sex, age, and trophic position. ?? 2008 NRC.
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Dietary biomagnification of organochlorine contaminants in Alaskan polar bears