Maternal transfer and embryonic assimilation of trace elements in freshwater turtles after remediation of a coal fly-ash spill Academic Article uri icon


  • Oviparous vertebrates maternally transfer elements to their offspring during egg production. Maternal transfer occurs because elements mimic, or are incorporated into, nutrients allocated to eggs, but likely differs among species depending on the quantities of specific nutrients allocated to eggs. Developing embryos are often assumed to assimilate all of the elements allocated to eggs, but this assumption has rarely been tested. We tested the hypothesis that maternal transfer and embryonic assimilation of trace elements differed between two species of freshwater turtles exposed to a recently-remediated coal fly-ash spill. Sternotherus odoratus transferred As, Se, and Zn, while Trachemys scripta transferred As, Hg, Se, Sr, and Zn. Logarithmic non-linear relationships between hatchling and egg concentrations indicated that turtles partially assimilated elements present in eggs. In systems contaminated with multiple trace elements, our data show that maternal transfer and embryonic assimilation are element- and species-specific, and may be inconsistent even among closely-related species.

publication date

  • 2014