European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis persica) as a biomarker of environmental pollution in Golestan and Mazandaran provinces, Iran

Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of Environmental Science, Faculty of Environment and Fisheries, Gorgan University of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Gorgan, Iran

2 Department of Veterinary Public Health and Animal Pathology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy

3 Msc student, Department of Environmental Science, Faculty of Environment and Fisheries, Gorgan University of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Gorgan, Iran


Anthropogenic environmental changes are hypothesized as main reasons for animal species population declines. Heavy metals contamination is one of the worst threats to animals among human-caused threats. As most of the heavy metals bioaccumulate in organisms, analyzing concentrations of heavy metals in long living animals, such as turtles, would be very useful for biomonitoring of environmental quality. The European pond turtle is classified as a Near Threatened in the red list of International Union for Conservation of Nature. The objective of this study was to obtain information on heavy metals contamination in this species, as a sentinels, to evaluate the overall health of both the European pond turtles and their ecosystem in Golestan and Mazandaran provinces. Biological samples of 10 living and 15 dead European pond turtles were analyzed by atomic absorption spectrophotometer for Zn, Pb, Cu, and Cd contaminations. Highest concentration of Zn (202.6 ± 58.5 μg g-1), Cd (4.4 ± 1.3 μg g-1) and Cu (3.8 ± 1.7 μg g-1) was detected in livers and the highest accumulation of Pb (45.6 ±16.3 μg g-1) occurred in kidneys. Positive correlations were detected among Zn, Pb and Cd tissue concentrations and carapaces curve length. Heavy metal levels were higher in males than females. Heavy metals contamination of sampled turtles stood in high degree. However, there is clearly a need to evaluate heavy metals physiologic effects on European pond turtles.


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