The most extensive study of pollutants in marine mammals' brains reveals that these animals are exposed to a hazardous cocktail of pesticides such as DDTs and PCBs, as well as emerging contaminants such as brominated flame retardants.
Eric Montie, the lead author on the study currently in press and published online April 17 in Environmental Pollution, performed the research as a student in the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution-MIT Joint Graduate Program in Oceanography and Ocean Engineering and as a postdoctoral fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). The final data analysis and writing were conducted at College of Marine Science, University of South Florida, where Montie now works in David Mann's marine sensory biology lab.
Co-author Chris Reddy, a senior scientist in the WHOI Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department, describes the work as "groundbreaking because Eric measures a variety of different chemicals in animal tissues that had not been previously explored. It gives us greater insight into how these chemicals may behave in marine mammals."
Montie analyzed both the cerebrospinal fluid and the gray matter of the cerebellum in eleven cetaceans and one gray seal stranded near
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Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution