University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine

The Lives of Otters

High levels of mercury and lead in fish may not be good for them - or us

Otters are well known for their playful nature, but new research suggests the amphibious mammals may bear grim news about widespread pollution. U of T surgery and physiology professor Carin Wittnich and Michael Belanger, a staff member in the department of surgery and president of the Oceanographic Environmental Research Society, are investigating the level of toxic pollutants in otters – after earlier studies showed alarming levels of mercury and lead in fish populations. Otters, which survive on a diet of fish, may provide important clues about the spread of these pollutants, and how they might affect humans. “Our data has shown that, instead of getting better, the levels of heavy metals and other contaminants are actually going up,” says Wittnich. “There’s obviously cause for concern.” The last major study of this type was done in 1979.

Recent Posts

Photo of front campus field and Convocation Hall with flower emoji illustrations floating above

Clearing the Air

U of T wants to drastically cut carbon emissions by 2050. It’s enlisting on-campus ingenuity for help

Abstract illustration showing a red-coloured body and face, with small black and white pieces flowing from inside body out of the mouth, and the U.S. Capitol Building dangling on puppet strings from one hand

The Extremism Machine

Online disinformation poses a danger to society. Researchers at U of T’s Citizen Lab are tracking it – and trying to figure out how to stop it

Prof. Mark V. Campbell with a beige background and red lighting

Charting Hip Hop’s Course

Professor Mark V. Campbell grew up during the early years of rap music. Now, he is helping preserve Canadian hip-hop culture for future generations

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *