Time filter

Source Type

Noel M.,University of Victoria | Noel M.,Coastal Ocean Research Institute | Jeffries S.,Philips | Lambourn D.M.,Philips | And 3 more authors.
Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology | Year: 2016

Mercury (Hg) bioaccumulates in the aquatic food chain in the form of methylmercury, a compound well known for its neurotoxicity. We analyzed total mercury (THg) in hair collected from 209 harbour seals captured at 10 sites in British Columbia (Canada) and Washington State (USA) between 2003 and 2010. In addition, laser ablation inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) allowed for a highly refined analysis of THg accumulation over time by examining nine whiskers taken from 4- to 6-week-old pups. We estimate that THg concentrations in pups increased sharply at a point corresponding to mid- to late gestation of their time in utero (4.7 ± 0.8 and 6.6 ± 1.3 μg/g dry weight (dw), respectively), and then again at the onset of nursing (8.1 ± 1.3 μg/g dw). These abrupt changes highlight the importance of both pre- and post-natal THg transfer from the mother to the growing fetus and the newborn pup. While THg levels varied among sites, hair analyses from seals collected at the same site demonstrated the influence of age in THg accumulation with pups (5.3 ± 0.3 μg/g) and juveniles (4.5 ± 0.5 μg/g) having lower levels than those in adults (8.3 ± 0.8 μg/g). Our results revealed that 33 % of the pups sampled (n = 167) had THg levels that surpassed a mammalian hair threshold for neurochemical alterations. This study suggests that Hg could represent a health concern to marine wildlife, especially as atmospheric emissions of this toxic element from human activities in the Pacific Rim and worldwide continue. © 2015 Springer Science+Business Media.


Schultz J.A.,Simon Fraser University | Schultz J.A.,Coastal Ocean Research Institute | Cloutier R.N.,Stantec Consulting Ltd. | Cote I.M.,Simon Fraser University
PeerJ | Year: 2016

Echinoderm population collapses, driven by disease outbreaks and climatic events, may be important drivers of population dynamics, ecological shifts and biodiversity. The northeast Pacific recently experienced a mass mortality of sea stars. In Howe Sound, British Columbia, the sunflower star Pycnopodia helianthoides-a previously abundant predator of bottom-dwelling invertebrates-began to show signs of a wasting syndrome in early September 2013, and dense aggregations disappeared from many sites in a matter of weeks. Here, we assess changes in subtidal community composition by comparing the abundance of fish, invertebrates and macroalgae at 20 sites in Howe Sound before and after the 2013 sea star mortality to evaluate evidence for a trophic cascade. We observed changes in the abundance of several species after the sea star mortality, most notably a four-fold increase in the number of green sea urchins, Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis, and a significant decline in kelp cover, which are together consistent with a trophic cascade. Qualitative data on the abundance of sunflower stars and green urchins from a citizen science database show that the patterns of echinoderm abundance detected at our study sites reflected wider local trends. The trophic cascade evident at the scale of Howe Sound was observed at half of the study sites. It remains unclear whether the urchin response was triggered directly, via a reduction in urchin mortality, or indirectly, via a shift in urchin distribution into areas previously occupied by the predatory sea stars. Understanding the ecological implications of sudden and extreme population declines may further elucidate the role of echinoderms in temperate seas, and provide insight into the resilience of marine ecosystems to biological disturbances. © 2016 Schultz et al.


PubMed | University of Victoria, Philips, Coastal Ocean Research Institute and Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Archives of environmental contamination and toxicology | Year: 2016

Mercury (Hg) bioaccumulates in the aquatic food chain in the form of methylmercury, a compound well known for its neurotoxicity. We analyzed total mercury (THg) in hair collected from 209 harbour seals captured at 10 sites in British Columbia (Canada) and Washington State (USA) between 2003 and 2010. In addition, laser ablation inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) allowed for a highly refined analysis of THg accumulation over time by examining nine whiskers taken from 4- to 6-week-old pups. We estimate that THg concentrations in pups increased sharply at a point corresponding to mid- to late gestation of their time in utero (4.7 0.8 and 6.6 1.3 g/g dry weight (dw), respectively), and then again at the onset of nursing (8.1 1.3 g/g dw). These abrupt changes highlight the importance of both pre- and post-natal THg transfer from the mother to the growing fetus and the newborn pup. While THg levels varied among sites, hair analyses from seals collected at the same site demonstrated the influence of age in THg accumulation with pups (5.3 0.3 g/g) and juveniles (4.5 0.5 g/g) having lower levels than those in adults (8.3 0.8 g/g). Our results revealed that 33 % of the pups sampled (n = 167) had THg levels that surpassed a mammalian hair threshold for neurochemical alterations. This study suggests that Hg could represent a health concern to marine wildlife, especially as atmospheric emissions of this toxic element from human activities in the Pacific Rim and worldwide continue.


Desforges J.-P.W.,Coastal Ocean Research Institute | Galbraith M.,Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans | Ross P.S.,Coastal Ocean Research Institute
Archives of environmental contamination and toxicology | Year: 2015

Microplastics are increasingly recognized as being widespread in the world's oceans, but relatively little is known about ingestion by marine biota. In light of the potential for microplastic fibers and fragments to be taken up by small marine organisms, we examined plastic ingestion by two foundation species near the base of North Pacific marine food webs, the calanoid copepod Neocalanus cristatus and the euphausiid Euphausia pacifia. We developed an acid digestion method to assess plastic ingestion by individual zooplankton and detected microplastics in both species. Encounter rates resulting from ingestion were 1 particle/every 34 copepods and 1/every 17 euphausiids (euphausiids > copepods; p = 0.01). Consistent with differences in the size selection of food between these two zooplankton species, the ingested particle size was greater in euphausiids (816 ± 108 μm) than in copepods (556 ± 149 μm) (p = 0.014). The contribution of ingested microplastic fibres to total plastic decreased with distance from shore in euphausiids (r (2) = 70, p = 0.003), corresponding to patterns in our previous observations of microplastics in seawater samples from the same locations. This first evidence of microplastic ingestion by marine zooplankton indicate that species at lower trophic levels of the marine food web are mistaking plastic for food, which raises fundamental questions about potential risks to higher trophic level species. One concern is risk to salmon: We estimate that consumption of microplastic-containing zooplankton will lead to the ingestion of 2-7 microplastic particles/day by individual juvenile salmon in coastal British Columbia, and ≤91 microplastic particles/day in returning adults.


PubMed | Coastal Ocean Research Institute and Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Archives of environmental contamination and toxicology | Year: 2015

Microplastics are increasingly recognized as being widespread in the worlds oceans, but relatively little is known about ingestion by marine biota. In light of the potential for microplastic fibers and fragments to be taken up by small marine organisms, we examined plastic ingestion by two foundation species near the base of North Pacific marine food webs, the calanoid copepod Neocalanus cristatus and the euphausiid Euphausia pacifia. We developed an acid digestion method to assess plastic ingestion by individual zooplankton and detected microplastics in both species. Encounter rates resulting from ingestion were 1 particle/every 34 copepods and 1/every 17 euphausiids (euphausiids>copepods; p=0.01). Consistent with differences in the size selection of food between these two zooplankton species, the ingested particle size was greater in euphausiids (816108m) than in copepods (556149m) (p=0.014). The contribution of ingested microplastic fibres to total plastic decreased with distance from shore in euphausiids (r (2)=70, p=0.003), corresponding to patterns in our previous observations of microplastics in seawater samples from the same locations. This first evidence of microplastic ingestion by marine zooplankton indicate that species at lower trophic levels of the marine food web are mistaking plastic for food, which raises fundamental questions about potential risks to higher trophic level species. One concern is risk to salmon: We estimate that consumption of microplastic-containing zooplankton will lead to the ingestion of 2-7 microplastic particles/day by individual juvenile salmon in coastal British Columbia, and 91 microplastic particles/day in returning adults.


Crossman C.A.,Coastal Ocean Research Institute | Crossman C.A.,University of British Columbia | Taylor E.B.,University of British Columbia | Barrett-Lennard L.G.,Coastal Ocean Research Institute | Barrett-Lennard L.G.,University of British Columbia
Ecology and Evolution | Year: 2016

Hybridization has been documented in a many different pairs of cetacean species both in captivity and in the wild. The widespread occurrence of hybridization indicates that postmating barriers to interbreeding are incomplete within the order Cetacea, and therefore raises questions about how species integrity is maintained in the face of interspecific (and often intergeneric) gene flow. We examined hybridization across the order Cetacea (oceanic species included: N = 78; species with 44 chromosomes included: N = 52) to test for associations between the occurrence of hybridization and similarity across 13 ecological, morphological and behavioral traits in hybridizing vs. non-hybridizing species pairs. We found that species pairs that share a greater number of traits had a higher propensity to hybridize than pairs of species that did not. This trend was driven by behavioral and morphological traits such as vocalization frequency and body size. Together our findings suggest the importance of divergent selection on morphological and behavioral traits within sympatric species in constraining opportunities for hybridization and preventing the collapse of parental species. Hybridization has been documented in a many different pairs of cetacean species both in captivity and in the wild. The widespread occurrence of hybridization indicates that post-mating barriers to interbreeding are incomplete within the order Cetacea. Our findings suggest the importance of divergent selection on morphological and behavioural traits within sympatric species in constraining opportunities for hybridization and preventing the collapse of parental species. © 2016 Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Loading Coastal Ocean Research Institute collaborators
Loading Coastal Ocean Research Institute collaborators