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Environ Pollut. 2010 Dec;158(12):3596-606. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2010.08.011. Epub 2010 Sep 19.

Ecological risk of anthropogenic pollutants to reptiles: Evaluating assumptions of sensitivity and exposure.

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Texas Tech University, The Institute of Environmental and Human Health, Department of Environmental Toxicology, Box 41163, Lubbock, TX, USA.


A large data gap for reptile ecotoxicology still persists; therefore, ecological risk assessments of reptiles usually incorporate the use of surrogate species. This necessitates that (1) the surrogate is at least as sensitive as the target taxon and/or (2) exposures to the surrogate are greater than that of the target taxon. We evaluated these assumptions for the use of birds as surrogates for reptiles. Based on a survey of the literature, birds were more sensitive than reptiles in less than 1/4 of the chemicals investigated. Dietary and dermal exposure modeling indicated that exposure to reptiles was relatively high, particularly when the dermal route was considered. We conclude that caution is warranted in the use of avian receptors as surrogates for reptiles in ecological risk assessment and emphasize the need to better understand the magnitude and mechanism of contaminant exposure in reptiles to improve exposure and risk estimation.

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