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Environ Monit Assess. 2001 Sep;70(3):253-301.

The accumulation and effects of environmental contaminants on snakes: a review.

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  • 1The Cadmus Group, Inc., Oak Ridge, Tennessee, USA.


In any ecological risk assessment, a full complement of the relevant members of the ecosystems being studied should be considered. Reptiles in general, and snakes in particular, are important although often neglected components of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and should be included in any study on environmental contamination. By neglecting reptiles, the risks posed by a particular contaminant cannot be fully assessed. Since all snakes are secondary, tertiary, and top predators, they are susceptible to the bioaccumulation of environmental contaminants. Their unique life histories make their roles in food webs diverse and important, and they are crucial to the proper functioning of many ecological processes. We review and summarize organic and inorganic contaminant and radionuclide/radiation residue and lethal and sublethal effects data for snakes to stress the importance of snakes and encourage their inclusion in ecological risk assessments, to demonstrate the paucity of available contaminant data on snakes and reveal the main information gaps, to encourage further ecotoxicological studies on snakes, and to facilitate the use of existing snake contaminant data in ecological risk assessments. This review is the most comprehensive review currently available on the effects on and accumulation of environmental contaminants in snakes.

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