Dolphins still show effects from Deepwater Horizon spill

Previous research found dolphins in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill experience a reducing in live calf births. Researchers say the dolphins in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay continue to experience health complications 10 years after the spill. Credit: Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries

Dolphins in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay continue to experience the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Researchers found lingering health differences in the bay’s bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) population compared to a population from Florida’s Sarasota Bay.

Previous research found shorter-term health impacts, including abnormal adrenal function, lung disease, impaired reproduction, immune system problems and decreased survival. Dolphins in the spill area gave birth to living calves just 19 percent of the time.

In the recent published study in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, University of Connecticut veterinary scientist Sylvain De Guise analyzed tissue samples from 34 Barataria Bay dolphins and found increased white blood cells and impacts to the immune system. Researchers say the changes may be passed down to new generations or the result of continued exposure to oil. They worry the effects may not be limited to dophins.

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