Marine mammals stranded on beaches in the southeastern United States died with high levels of pollutants stored in their organs and blubber, researchers reported recently in Frontiers in Marine Science. “Marine mammals are like a litmus test for the ecosystem,” said lead author Annie Page-Karjian, clinical veterinarian at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic University. “Looking at them and the toxins they’re exposed to gives us a snapshot of what is happening in the marine environment.” The Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) in this study died with a long list of pathologies including myocardial fibrosis, hepatitis and atrophy of the pancreas and thyroid gland. Photo Credit: Sheilapic76 / creative commons Thousands of chemicals from households, farms and factories quietly enter the ocean every day. Some readily absorb onto bits of another common pollutant: plastic. When mistaken for food by small animals like plankton and anchovies, plastic enters the food chain—along with the chemicals it soaked up. While the amount of toxins eaten by one anchovy is minuscule, most marine mammals are apex predators, eating hundreds of fish, squid or krill each day. Through a process called bioaccumulation, small amounts of ingested toxins concentrate in carnivores over time, compromising their immune systems and bodily functions. The researchers collected autopsy data from 83 toothed whales and dolphins that washed up in Florida and North Carolina between 2012 and 2018. They examined 46 bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), 21 pygmy sperm whales (Kogia breviceps), and small numbers of animals from nine other species. The…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer