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The secret lives of whales

could map levels of pollutants in different ocean. “The oceans act as a conveyer belt carrying contaminants across the globe and depositing them in the fats of seafood,?says Payne. Now in the final year of a five-year global voyage, Payne’s institute has found and collected skin samples from over 1100 sperm whales from some of the most remote ocean regions of the globe.

He chose to sample sperm whales because they ranged worldwide and are whale icons ?thanks to Melville’s tale of Moby Dick, the rare white sperm whale. Female sperm whales feed in tropical regions while males travel globally and feed near the poles. “For example, of the roughly one million sperm whales killed by whalers in the Antarctic Ocean, only one was a female,?says Payne.

Ocean Alliance is testing its samples for 30 different pollutants. “Some of these are endocrine disruptors ?female hormone mimics that cause serious problems. The whole world is being feminized,?says Payne. Payne’s greatest hope is that in the next decade, the world will have taken heed, and instituted steps to reduce the entry of contaminants to the oceans.


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