A new survey mentioned in the press this week points to the long term effects of oil spills on unborn fish. Five years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have discovered that the crude oil in water damages the hearts of unborn fish.
Fish exposed to oil in the water have an abnormal heartbeat, altered circulation and structural defects in the heart and other organs.
They also discovered that fish embryos exposed to crude oil developed curved spines and small jaws and eyes.
“Fish are most vulnerable to crude oil during their earliest life stages, when they are tiny, translucent eggs and larvae floating in the water during the first few days of life.
“At that stage they can’t metabolise toxic compounds or swim away from oil effectively,” say researchers.
These findings will allow scientists to identify new biomarkers for cardiac-related injury in fish exposed to oil spills.