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Sina Schweizer, Kristin Halder, Annika Schäfer, Jakob Hauns, Letizia Marsili, Sandro Mazzariol, Maria Cristina Fossi, Juan Muñoz-Arnanz, Begoña Jiménez, Walter Vetter
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Halogenated natural products (HNPs) are considered to be emerging contaminants whose environmental distribution and fate are only incompletely known. Therefore, several persistent and bioaccumulative HNP groups, together with man-made polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), were quantified in the blubber of nine sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) stranded on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Italy. The naturally occurring polybrominated hexahydroxanthene derivatives (PBHDs; sum of TetraBHD and TriBHD) were the most prominent substance class with up to 77,000 ng/g blubber. The mean PBHD content (35,800 ng/g blubber) even exceeded the one of PCBs (28,400 ng/g blubber), although the region is known to be highly contaminated with man-made contaminants. Based on mean values, Q1 ∼ PBDEs > MeO-BDEs ∼ 2,2′-diMeO-BB 80 and several other HNPs followed with decreasing amounts. All blubber samples contained an abundant compound whose molecular formula (C16H19Br3O2) was verified using high-resolution mass spectrometry. The only plausible matching isomer was (2S,4′S,9R,9′S)-2,7-dibromo-4′-bromomethyl-1,1-dimethyl-2,3,4,4′,9,9′-9,9′-hexahydro-1H-xanthen-9-ol (OH-TriBHD), a hydroxylated secondary metabolite previously detected together with TriBHD and TetraBHD in a sponge known to be a natural producer of PBHDs. The estimated mean amount of the presumed OH-TriBHD was 3000 ng/g blubber, which is unexpectedly high for hydroxylated compounds in the lipids of marine mammals.