As top predators in long marine food chains, marine mammals are vulnerable to environmental contaminant accumulation and associated detrimental effects on important health endpoints. Over several decades, the weight of evidence from multiple studies of natural exposure, captive feeding, in vitro laboratory exposure, and in silico effect modeling demonstrate that a wide array of natural and anthropogenic contaminants modulate the immune system of marine mammals. While much has been learned in the field of marine mammal immunotoxicology, additional work is still required to understand the mechanisms behind contaminant-induced immunotoxic effects, as well as the complex interplay among contaminant mixtures and other stressors. Increased integration from the innovative fields of genomics and molecular biology will continue to provide marine mammal scientists new avenues for immunotoxicology research for years to come.
Jean-Pierre Desforges, Christian Sonne, Rune Dietz, Milton Levin, Marine Mammal Ecotoxicology, Academic Press, 2018, Pages 321-343,