Ear wax can also show scientists the quality of the environment the whale swam in. This whale showed two separate spikes in mercury, meaning it probably swam through a polluted patch of ocean for a few months.
Chemicals are also stored in whales' fatty blubber tissue, but that buildup doesn't give researchers any clues as to when the whale was exposed to those chemicals. (Via NPR)
The team is planning to analyze some of the 1,000 or more ear wax specimens in museums around the world. Which is great for science, but really bad for nostrils — apparently they have a quote "pungent fishy smell." Lovely...
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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