PCB accumulation and tissue distribution in cave salamander (Proteus anguinus anguinus, Amphibia, Urodela) in the polluted karstic hinterland of the Krupa River, Slovenia


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January 2011


For over two decades, a manufacturer of electrical capacitors disposed of its waste within the karstic hinterland of the Krupa River (Slovenia) resulting in the surroundings becomming heavily polluted with PCB. Albeit the extent of the contamination has been known since 1983 and the Krupa River has become one of the most PCB polluted river in Europe, the effects on the cave fauna of the region remain unknown. The most famous cave dweller of the Krupa hinterland is the endemic cave salamander Proteus anguinus anguinus. In this study we determine the levels of PCB in the tissues of the Proteus and in river sediments. The total concentration of PCB in individual tissue samples from specimens of the Krupa spring was between 165.59 μg g−1 and 1560.20 μg g−1 dry wt, which is at least 28-times higher than those from an unpolluted site. The kidneys contained the lowest concentration, while the highest concentration was in subcutaneous fat and tissues with high lipid contents like visceral fat and liver. Total PCB concentrations in sediment samples from the Krupa River were between 5.47 and 59.20 μg g−1 dry wt showing that a high burden of PCB still remains in the region. The most abundant PCB congeners in all analyzed samples were di-ortho substituted (PCB #101, #118, #138 and #158), but higher proportion of mono-ortho PCB was present in sediments. The ability of Proteus to survive a high PCB loading in its environment and especially in its tissues is remarkable. Its partial elimination of low chlorinated and mono-ortho substituted congeners is also reported.


PCB Distribution, Proteus Anguinus, Tissue, Sediment, Krupa River, Slovenia

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Chemosphere, Vol. 84, no. 7 (2011).