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Science. 2018 Sep 28;361(6409):1373-1376. doi: 10.1126/science.aat1953.

Predicting global killer whale population collapse from PCB pollution.

Author information

1
Department of Bioscience, Arctic Research Centre, Aarhus University, Frederiksborgvej 399, P.O. Box 358, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark. jpd@bios.au.dk rdi@bios.au.dk ajh7@st-andrews.ac.uk.
2
Sea Mammal Research Unit, Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, KY16 8LB, UK. jpd@bios.au.dk rdi@bios.au.dk ajh7@st-andrews.ac.uk.
3
Sea Mammal Research Unit, Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, KY16 8LB, UK.
4
Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, P.O. Box 570, 3900 Nuuk, Greenland.
5
Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Pakefield Road, Lowestoft NR33 0HT, UK.
6
Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme, SRUC Veterinary Services Drummondhill, Stratherrick Road, Inverness IV2 4JZ, UK.
7
Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science, University of Connecticut, 61 North Eagleville Road, Storrs, CT 06269-3089, USA.
8
Connecticut Sea Grant, 1080 Shennecossett Road, Groton, CT 06340-6048, USA.
9
Department of Bioscience, Arctic Research Centre, Aarhus University, Frederiksborgvej 399, P.O. Box 358, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark.
10
Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent's Park, London NW1 4RY, UK.
11
Ecotoxicology and Wildlife Health Division, Environment and Climate Change Canada, National Wildlife Research Centre, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H3, Canada.
12
Ocean Wise Conservation Association, P.O. Box 3232, Vancouver, British Columbia V6B 3X8, Canada.
13
Marine and Freshwater Research Institute, Skúlagata 4, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland.

Abstract

Killer whales (Orcinus orca) are among the most highly polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-contaminated mammals in the world, raising concern about the health consequences of current PCB exposures. Using an individual-based model framework and globally available data on PCB concentrations in killer whale tissues, we show that PCB-mediated effects on reproduction and immune function threaten the long-term viability of >50% of the world's killer whale populations. PCB-mediated effects over the coming 100 years predicted that killer whale populations near industrialized regions, and those feeding at high trophic levels regardless of location, are at high risk of population collapse. Despite a near-global ban of PCBs more than 30 years ago, the world's killer whales illustrate the troubling persistence of this chemical class.

PMID:
30262502
DOI:
10.1126/science.aat1953

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