Toxic time bombs: Frequent detection of anticoagulant rodenticides in urban reptiles at multiple trophic levels

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Science of the Total Environment




School of Science




Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment


Lettoof, D. C., Lohr, M. T., Busetti, F., Bateman, P. W., & Davis, R. A. (2020). Toxic time bombs: Frequent detection of anticoagulant rodenticides in urban reptiles at multiple trophic levels. Science of The Total Environment, 724, Article 138218. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.138218


Anticoagulant rodenticides (ARs) are regularly used around the world to control pest mammals. Second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) are highly persistent in biological tissue and have a high potential for bioaccumulation and biomagnification. Consequently, exposure and poisoning of non-target organisms has been frequently documented, especially in countries with unregulated AR sales and usage. Most of this research has focussed on rodent-predators, usually raptors and predatory mammals, although exposure has also been documented in invertebrates and insectivorous fauna. Few studies have explored non-target exposure in reptiles, despite species sharing similar trophic positions and dietary preferences to other exposed fauna. We tested three abundant urban reptile species in Perth, Western Australia that differ in diet and trophic tiers for multiple AR exposure, the dugite Pseudonaja affinis (rodent-predator), the bobtail Tiliqua rugosa (omnivore) and the tiger snake Notechis scutatus occidentalis (frog-predator). We found frequent exposure in all three species (91% in dugites, 60% in bobtails and 45% in tiger snakes). Mean combined liver concentrations of ARs of exposed individuals were 0.178 mg/kg in dugites, 0.040 mg/kg in bobtails and 0.009 mg/kg in tiger snakes. High exposure frequency and liver concentration was expected for the dugite. Exposure in the other species is more surprising and implies widespread AR contamination of the food web. We discuss the likelihood of global AR exposure of urban reptiles, highlight the potential for reptiles to be important vectors of ARs in the food web and highlight implications for humans consuming wild reptiles.



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