Remarkable Findings Concerning PBDEs in the Terrestrial Top-Predator Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

In the present study, we have analyzed muscle, liver, and adipose tissue of 33 red foxes from Belgium for their content of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Median sums of seven tri- to hepta-BDEs (BDE 28, BDE 47, BDE 99, BDE 100, BDE 153, BDE 154, and BDE 183) were 2.2, 2.4, and 3.4 ng/g lipid weight in adipose tissue, liver, and muscle, respectively. These levels were lower than those found in various species of voles and mice, the main prey species of the red fox. This is probably related to the high capacity of the foxes to metabolize and eliminate lower brominated congeners. BDE 209 generally dominated the PBDE congener profiles in the red fox samples. In samples containing BDE 209, this congener contributed, on the average, approximately 70% to the total PBDE content. BDE 209 was measured in concentrations as high as 760 ng/g lipid weight in the liver, but the detection frequency was not more than 40%. In animals with the highest BDE 209 levels, this congener was detected in muscle, liver, as well as in adipose tissue. Other abundant congeners were BDE 153 and BDE 47, which prevail in other terrestrial species. The particular PBDE congener profile observed in the red fox resembles that seen in grizzly bears from Canada, but differs from those previously reported for terrestrial avian species. Our data confirms unambiguously that BDE 209 does bioaccumulate in terrestrial top predators, such as the red fox.