“We documented for first time marked changes in the pelagic food web length in response to various natural and anthropogenic related stressors,” said lead author Rocio I. Ruiz-Cooley, formerly of NOAA Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center and now at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. “This tells us that the food web is very dynamic, and reveals changes with the ecosystem around it.”
Researchers at Ano Nuevo found the mercury level in the water during the molting season 17 times higher than what it is at other times of the year. That led them to look at where the mercury was coming from: the seals themselves. The molted skin takes with it some of the mercury that the seals have accumulated from the prey they eat in the ocean. Their blood and muscles have higher concentrations of mercury than would damage the nervous system of a human.
“What I saw next really surprised me. There was indeed a dead otter on the beach but there was another otter touching it with its nose and paws almost as if it was trying to revive the deceased otter. This continued for several minutes.”