Chronic Ingestion of Coal Fly-Ash Contaminated Prey and Its Effects on Health and Immune Parameters in Juvenile American Alligators (Alligator mississippiensis)

John W. Finger, Matthew T. Hamilton, Brian S. Metts, Travis C. Glenn, Tracey D. Tuberville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


Coal-burning power plants supply approximately 37 % of the electricity in the United States. However, incomplete combustion produces ash wastes enriched with toxic trace elements that have historically been disposed of in aquatic basins. Organisms inhabiting such habitats may accumulate these trace elements; however, studies investigating the effects on biota have been primarily restricted to shorter-lived, lower-trophic organisms. The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), a long-lived, top-trophic carnivore, has been observed inhabiting these basins, yet the health or immune effects of chronic exposure and possible accumulation remains unknown. In this study, we investigated how chronic dietary ingestion of prey contaminated with coal combustion wastes (CCWs) for 25 months, and subsequent accumulation of trace elements present in CCWs, affected juvenile alligator immune function and health. Alligators were assigned to one of four dietary-treatment groups including controls and those fed prey contaminated with CCWs for one, two, or three times a week. However, no effect of Dietary Treatment (p > 0.05) was observed on any immune parameter or hematological or plasma analyte we tested. Our results suggest that neither exposure to nor accumulation of low doses of CCWs had a negative effect on certain aspects of the immune and hematological system. However, future studies are required to elucidate this further.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)347-358
Number of pages12
JournalArchives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2016


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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