Tissue distribution of retinoids in common dolphins Delphinus delphis
Exposure to organochlorines induces retinoid deficiency in mammals; hence, retinoids are potential biomarkers of the impact of these pollutants. Appropriate target tissues to monitor retinoids in cetaceans have not been properly identified because of a lack of information on the contribution of each tissue to total body retinoids. Therefore, we have addressed this issue by studying the contribution of the main body tissues to retinoids in 21 common dolphins obtained from incidental catches and in apparent good health and nutritive condition. Although concentrations in the liver were highest, those in blubber were also high and accounted for 43% of the total retinoid load of the compartments examined. As blubber can be obtained using non-invasive biopsy techniques, this tissue is proposed as a reliable indicator of retinoid status in cetaceans. However, blubber topographical variation in structure and composition requires standardization of sampling sites. Retinoid concentrations did not differ significantly between sexes or with body size for any of the tissues, but the lipid content of blubber strongly influenced these concentrations. Biopsies from healthy, free-ranging individuals are preferred to samples from stranded animals. Further research on the influence of factors (age, sex, reproductive condition, diet) that potentially affect retinoid levels is required to implement the use of retinoids as biomarkers of pollutant exposure in cetaceans.