Trace amounts of crude oil harm fish


Deepwater Horizon spill affected gene expression in Gulf killifish.

Hydrocarbons from oil spills - such as those washed up in Barataria Bay, Louisiana - can remain in marsh sediments for years, potentially having long-term effects on fish embryos.

Hydrocarbons from oil spills - such as those washed up in Barataria Bay, Louisiana - can remain in marsh sediments for years, potentially having long-term effects on fish embryos. - Bridget Besaw/Aurora Photos/Corbis

Heart-breaking pictures of seabirds covered in black crude oil, arresting as they are, can miss the hidden story of an oil spill’s impact on wildlife.

Exposure to even tiny concentrations of the chemicals present in oil can also cause harmful biological effects that usually go unnoticed, according to a study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences1.

“It’s striking that even though the analytical chemistry doesn’t indicate exposure, the biology does,” says Andrew Whitehead, a biologist at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, who led the study. “We can measure all the chemistry we want in the environment, but if want to know whether organisms have been exposed, we have to ask them.”

More (Click here), Melissa Gaskill,  Nature, doi:10.1038/news.2011.54

References

Whitehead, A. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA advance online publication http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1109545108 (2011).

Whitehead, A. , Pilcher, W. , Champlin, D. & Nacci, D. Proc. R. Soc. B. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2011.0847 (2011).

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2 Responses to Trace amounts of crude oil harm fish

  1. Christine says:

    Thanks (as always) for the info and links, Alan.
    Were you in the crowd yesterday? I was watching the livestreaming.

    • Alan Burke says:

      You’re welcome! Yes, I did go to the rally but had to leave about 11:30 before the fence-climbing started. I estimate that there were between 400 – 500 attendees. They were highly responsive to the speakers. I was about 15 feet from the podium about SE (right and back).

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