Giants of the ocean – affected by anthropogenic pollutants?
Due to their filter feeding habits and poor capacity to biotransform xenobiotics, blue and fin whales (Balaenoptera musculus and B. physalus) are likely exposed to a wide range of environmental chemicals, which may negatively affect their health. This research project will quantify a wide range of emerging and legacy toxic compounds in the blubber of blue and fin whales sampled from Svalbard. Cause-effect relationships between chemical exposure and effects will be established by testing activation of blue and fin whale nuclear receptors and the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) by relevant environmental chemicals and mixtures of compounds. We will also investigate whether environmental chemicals are correlated with hormone concentrations and transcription levels of nuclear receptors as well as AhR and their target genes in the blubber of blue and fin whales. Finally, we will compare chemical exposure in blue and fin whales to other whale species feeding in Arctic/sub-Arctic waters in the North Atlantic in relation to their feeding habits.