A model for energetics and bioaccumulation in marine mammals with applications to the right whale. Academic Article uri icon


  • We present a dynamic energy budget (DEB) model for marine mammals, coupled with a pharmacokinetic model of a lipophilic persistent toxicant. Inputs to the model are energy availability and lipid-normalized toxicant concentration in the environment. The model predicts individual growth, reproduction, bioaccumulation, and transfer of energy and toxicant from mothers to their young. We estimated all model parameters for the right whale; with these parameters, reduction in energy availability increases the age at first parturition, increases intervals between reproductive events, reduces the organisms' ability to buffer seasonal fluctuations, and increases its susceptibility to temporal shifts in the seasonal peak of energy availability. Reduction in energy intake increases bioaccumulation and the amount of toxicant transferred from mother to each offspring. With high energy availability, the toxicant load of offspring decreases with birth order. Contrary to expectations, this ordering may be reversed with lower energy availability. Although demonstrated with parameters for the right whale, these relationships between energy intake and energetics and pharmacokinetics of organisms are likely to be much more general. Results specific to right whales include energy assimilation estimates for the North Atlantic and southern right whale, influences of history of energy availability on reproduction, and a relationship between ages at first parturition and calving intervals. Our model provides a platform for further analyses of both individual and population responses of marine mammals to pollution, and to changes in energy availability, including those likely to arise through climate change.

publication date

  • December 2007