Seal Blubber Sheds Light On Deep-sea Contaminants
(Click to enlarge) Elephant seals are members of the earless seal Family Phocidae. (Credit: Sarah Peterson/Science)
Ocean scientists already know that persistent organic pollutants—potentially harmful chemicals that stick around for a long time—accumulate in marine environments and wildlife. But they’re murkier on what’s happening in the deep ocean.
(From Science / by Ilima Loomis) — Now, a new paper suggests that ecologists studying the spread of these chemicals through the world’s seas might get some help from blubbery elephant seals. Scientists took blubber samples from before and after a 7-month foraging trip, and satellite-tracked some of them as they hunted across the northern Pacific at great depths. (The researchers sedated the seals and applied a local anesthetic before taking a sample from the animals’ hind flank with a small biopsy punch.)
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