Chemicals that exert endocrine effects in organisms, commonly referred to as endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs), have become a growing concern in recent years. Exposure to EDCs is currently regarded as one of the most serious anthropogenic threats to biodiversity and particularly to aquatic ecosystems through breeding disruption and fecundity reduction in a variety of marine species. EDCs are particularly harmful to reproductive and early development phases and the most commonly reported EDCs, namely estrogenic active compounds, have been associated with developmental and reproductive abnormalities in a variety of aquatic wildlife, ranging from invertebrates to marine fishes. Processes such as metamorphosis and hermaphroditism, which are common in several marine species, may be particularly susceptible to endocrine disruption.

Disruptive impacts of EDCs may not only affect ecosystems nearby emission sources, but also distant areas such as Arctic and Antarctic regions. However, neither the presence nor the effects of EDCs in Antarctica have been studied in detail. Therefore, we are aiming to quantify (anti-) estrogenic and (anti-) androgenic activities of marine water using our effect-based bioassays Arxula Estrogen Screen (A-YES®) and Arxula Androgen Screen (A-YAS®). In cooperation with the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), we will sample water during the Polarstern’s cruise PS103 from Cape Town via the German Antarctic research station Neumayer III and the Weddell Sea to Punta Arenas from both, surface and deep water layers. By quantifying endocrine activities in Antarctic waters, our research will help elucidating the concerns about EDCs in Antarctica.

German research icebreaker RV Polarstern. Photo: Bruce McAdam.

German Antarctic research station Neumayer III at Atka Bay on the Ekstrom Ice Shelf. Photo: Felix Riess.


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