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Deepwater Horizon Animals

April 16, 2015

How are animals coping 5 years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico?

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Striped Dolphins April 29 Deepwater Horizon oil NOAA Natonal Ocean Service flickr CC BY 2.0

Striped dolphins swim through emulsified oil in the Gulf of Mexico on April 29, 2010. (NOAA National Ocean Service/flickr/Creative Commons BY 2.0)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Animals vs. oil spills. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

5 years ago, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, causing the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history. Since then, scientists have been studying the impact of the toxic oil on sea life. Warren Cornwall reports in Science magazine that some animals show more resilience than others.

WARREN CORNWALL:

Dolphins aren’t doing so well according to the latest health checkups.

HIRSHON:

They have high rates of lung disease and suppressed hormones, both signatures of toxic exposure.

CORNWALL:

The scientists found that 17% of the dolphins were in such bad shape that they didn’t expect them to live long.

HIRSHON:

But the fish tell a different story. They also show signs of toxic exposure, including overactive immune systems and gill damage.

CORNWALL:

You would think that would translate into an overall impact on the fish populations, but so far the scientists haven’t found that. So that’s a puzzle.

HIRSHON:

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.