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Age and Sex-Dependent Distribution of Persistent Organochlorine Pollutants in Urban Foxes

By Deplazes, Peter

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Book Id: WPLBN0000016466
Format Type: PDF eBook
File Size: 0.3 MB
Reproduction Date: 2005
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Title: Age and Sex-Dependent Distribution of Persistent Organochlorine Pollutants in Urban Foxes  
Author: Deplazes, Peter
Language: English
Subject: Government publications, United Nations., United Nations. Office for Disarmament Affairs
Collections: Government Library Collection, Disarmament Documents
Publication Date:
Publisher: United Nations- Office for Disarmament Affairs (Unoda)


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Deplazes, P. (n.d.). Age and Sex-Dependent Distribution of Persistent Organochlorine Pollutants in Urban Foxes. Retrieved from

Government Reference Publication

Excerpt: 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 Zurich, 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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