Whale Earwax Used to Determine Contaminant Exposure in Whales

The male blue whale whose earplug was harvested for the study.

-Baylor University professors Stephen Trumble, Ph.D., and Sascha Usenko, Ph.D.,have developed a novel technique for reconstructing contaminant and hormone profiles using whale earplugs, determining--for the first time--lifetime chemical exposures and hormone profiles--from birth to death--for an individual whale, information that was previously unattainable. 

Using a blue whale's earplug, Trumble and Usenko were able to extract and analyze the stress hormone cortisol, testosterone, organic contaminants such as pesticides and flame
retardants, and mercury, demonstrating that both man-made and endogenous chemicals are recorded and archived in whale earwax. Their research findings appear in the current issue of the  Proceedings of the Academy of Sciences of the United States of America and is available online.

Source: Sciencedaily