You are here:

Development of marine mammal health and ecology in different climate conditions

‘MARINE MAMMALS IN A CHANGING ENVIRONMENT’  Symposium –                               07-08 March 2019 – CeNak, Hamburg, Germany

Foto © Markus Tollhopf


Project leader: Prof. Prof. h. c. Dr Ursula Siebert
Scientific work: Dr. Kristina Lehnert-Sobotta
Project term: September 2015 - March 2020
Sponsorship: VolkswagenStiftung
Cooperation partners: Zoological Institute Hamburg University
Zoological Museum Hamburg University
German Marine Museum in Stralsund
Zoological Institute and Museum at the University of Kiel
Natural History Museum in Danmark
Swedish Museum of Natural History

Harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena), harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) and grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) are native to the North Sea, and in smaller numbers also, in the Baltic Sea. All three species are increasingly at risk. Although they have no natural enemies in their habitat, various factors such as pollution, fishing of the seas, global warming and increasing use of the ecosystem by humans, through shipping or offshore wind turbines, can affect these species. These factors can have serious consequences on the health of these mammals.


In this cooperative project specifically, bone density and bone structure in preparations spanning several decades will be compared, and bones will be examined for trace elements and heavy metals such as mercury, lead and selenium. In addition, changes in the food spectrum will be analyzed and searched for stress markers to see whether environmental conditions have changed over time. Project partners will also check the specimens for pathogens. They will try to detect viruses and categorize the parasites of the three mammalian species. Aim of the project is to work out parameters suitable for assessing the health of our marine mammals over an extended time period.


In addition to TiHo, the Zoological Institute and the Zoological Museum of Hamburg University, the German Marine Museum in Stralsund, the Zoological Institute and Museum at the University of Kiel, Hildesheim University and the National History Museum in Denmark and the Swedish Museum of Natural History are involved in the project.


Skull of a grey seal, Swedish Museum of Natural History’s vertebrate collection. Photo credit: NRM/Charlotta Moraeus
Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover
Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research
Werftstr. 6
25761 Büsum
Tel.:+49 511 856-8171
Fax.:+49 511 856-8181
This page...