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Embryotoxicity of weathered crude oil from the Gulf of Mexico in mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos)

Author(s): Finch BE, Wooten KJ, Smith PN

Abstract

 

Weathered crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico can result from oil spills such as the Deepwater Horizon incident that occurred on April 20, 2010 or from natural seeps. Adult waterbirds of the Gulf Coast region may become exposed to weathered crude oil while foraging, wading, or resting, and residues can then be transferred to nests, eggs, and hatchlings. Although the toxicity of many types of crude oil to avian embryos has been thoroughly studied, the effects of weathered crude oil on developing avian embryos are not well characterized. The objective of the present study was to examine embryotoxicity of weathered crude oil collected from the Gulf of Mexico in June 2010 using mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) as a model species. Weathered crude oil was applied to fertilized mallard duck eggs by paintbrush in masses ranging from 0.1 to 99.9 mg on day 3 of incubation. Mortality occurred as early as day 7 and the conservatively derived median lethal application of weathered crude oil was 30.8 mg/egg (0.5 mg/g egg) or 30.7 µl/egg (0.5 µl/g egg). Body mass, liver and spleen mass, crown–rump and bill lengths, and frequency of deformities were not significantly different among hatchlings from oiled and control eggs. In comparison to published reports of fresh crude oil embryotoxicity, weathered crude oil was considerably less toxic. We conclude that avian toxicity varies according to the degree of crude oil weathering and the stage of embryonic development at the time of exposure. Results indicate bird eggs exposed to weathered crude oil from the Gulf of Mexico during summer 2010 may have had reduced hatching success.

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