This project is based on MMI’s archive of skin/blubber biopsy samples (n=30) from sperm whales collected during tagging expeditions to the Gulf of Mexico from 2011 to 2013. By conducting stable isotope and hormone analyses on the tissue samples, this project seeks to generate new information on the immediate and long-term behavioral (e.g., variation in distribution, foraging, and resource use) and physiological (e.g., stress, reproduction, health) effects of the oil spill on Gulfof Mexico sperm whales. These results will provide expanded insight into earlier findings from analysis of the satellite tracking and diving data, as well as into an apparent segregation between social groups in the region.

Clarissa Teixeira is a postdoctoral scholar on the project. She has been processing the skin samples at the OSU CEOAS Stable Isotope Lab for analysis of bulk carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes. Working with project collaborator Seth Newsome at the University of New Mexico’s Center for Stable Isotopes, Clarissa will conduct compound-specific stable isotope analysis of amino acids on a subset of the samples. Clarissa is also hoping to expand her access to additional samples from other parts of the world for comparison to unexposed (reference) populations, and has been reaching out to potential external collaborators.


The tissue samples were collected during tagging activities sponsored by ..., and private donors to the Marine Mammal Institute Endowment. This project is funded by the Marine Mammal Institute's Oregon Gray Whale License Plate Program. We deeply appreciate the support of the Oregonians who purchased or renewed their Coastal Playground license plate!

Engelhaupt et al. ...

Jochens et al. 2008. ...

Irvine, L. M., Winsor, M. H., Follett, T. M., Mate, B. R. & Palacios, D. M. (2020). An at-sea assessment of Argos location accuracy for three species of large whales, and the effect of deep-diving behavior on location error. Animal Biotelemetry, 8, 20. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40317-020-00207-x.

Mate, B. R., Irvine, L. M. and Palacios, D. M. (2017). The development of an intermediate-duration tag to characterize the diving behavior of large whales. Ecology and Evolution, 7, 585–595. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.2649.

Ortega-Ortiz, J. G., Engelhaupt, D., Winsor, M., Mate, B. R., & Hoelzel, A. R. (2012). Kinship of long-term associates in the highly social sperm whale. Molecular Ecology, 21(3), 732–744. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-294x.2011.05274.x.

Ruiz-Cooley, R. I., Engelhaupt, D. T., & Ortega-Ortíz, J. G. (2011). Contrasting C and N isotope ratios from sperm whale skin and squid between the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf of California: effect of habitat. Marine Biology, 159(1), 151–164. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00227-011-1795-3.



For further information please contact project PI Daniel Palacios.