Dolphin Diet

Summer 2012

You’ve heard the term ‘Mad as a hatter,'” says the Whiting School’s Ed Bouwer, of the 18th-century English hat makers who suffered from dementia caused by mercury poisoning. Well, today’s concern is the bioaccumulation of these heavy metals in the blood and tissue of the world’s fish and marine mammals.
To better understand this problem, Bouwer, the Abel Wolman Professor of Environmental Engineering and chair of the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering, and his colleague, Yong-Seok Hong, completed a study with the National Aquarium, Baltimore of the diets of captive and wild bottlenose dolphins.

Their results: Captive dolphins had lower methylmercury concentrations in their blood than their wild counterparts

living off the Florida and South Carolina coasts. The reason: The captive dolphins were fed fish from the waters near Cape Cod and Newfoundland, which had lower levels of methylmercury.