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Gulf Killifish Shows Adverse Effects Due to BP Oil Spill Disaster

Fundulus grandis has compromised gills and estrogen signaling

October 3, 2011

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A report published in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America" says that animal species such as the Gulf Killifish (Fundulus grandis), in and around the Gulf of Mexico will continue to be subject to negative effects of the BP Oil Spill disaster of 2010.

The report states that the Gulf Killifish, a tiny, sub three-inch baitfish that researchers consider a good indicator of water quality in the Gulf of Mexico, is showing signs that the oil spill is having a negative impact on its health. The fish has been exposed to hydrocarbon poisoning, the same type of poisoning shown in other animal populations after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska in 1989. According to a report in The Times-Picayune, the killifish has been exposed to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that have wreaked havoc on the fish's gills and other organs.

“I wasn’t surprised we detected responses to an animal that is at high risk to exposure; what surprised me was the responses came at such low levels of the hydrocarbons,” Andrew Whitehead, lead author of the study told The Times-Picayune. Whitehead, according to the report, established six monitoring stations throughout the Gulf Coast and started to collect the Gulf Killifish samples before the oil reached their habitats to establish a baseline in which the scientists could compare their results after the exposure to the oil. “We detected compromised estrogen signaling, which is pretty important to reproduction,” Whitehead said. “And the oil came ashore during the peak times for reproduction for many species in the habitat, so we don’t know how widespread this is." This, the reports states, does not bode well for the Gulf Killifish and its existing environment as the fish is an important food source for larger fish in the Gulf, including the speckled trout, redfish, flounder and drum.

The Gulf Killifish is primarily an estuary resident, an inshore fish that can be found in a variety of habitats such as marshes, tidal pools, seagrass and oyster beds, and can live in water with wide ranging swings in salinity. It can also be found in fresh and brackish waters ranging from Florida to the Northern Gulf of Mexico, to Cuba. The fish spawns from March to September, laying its eggs on vegetation during hide tides and develop exposed to the air. The Gulf Coast Killifish is also commonly used in toxicity tests as is the case with this study. 

The original study can be found here

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Gulf Killifish Shows Adverse Effects Due to BP Oil Spill Disaster

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russell studstill    suwannee river, FL

12/11/2012 5:50:10 PM

very interesting and quite concerning about bp oil spill. I've noticed a dramatic downturn in killifish numbers over the past two years as I fish primarily for redfish and trout with killifish. the pods that used to be abundant are hard to find now. there seem to be higher numbers of killifish in the brackish waters of the suwannee river basin but from last year harder to find. the larger ones have almost disapeared.

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