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Science and Technology

Two heads better than one? Scientists fear genetic mutations for fish in BP oil spill

The University of South Florida’s Marine Science Department is discovering commercial and recreational fish with oil in their livers since the BP oil spill occurred in 2009.

Chemical geological oceanographer David Hollander described the oil in the ocean as, “invisible bubbles.” Hollander said the invisible bubbles “are creating, essentially, an evolution in the Gulf.”

Two years later, effects of this evolution are beginning to appear. “We do a test called fingerprinting, which can match unknown oil to a particular oil,” Hollander said. According to this testing, BP’s oil is almost a precise match to the oil in the fishes’ livers.

Hollander compared fish ingesting oil to humans consuming alcohol. “Alcohol is poisonous to humans, but the liver does a pretty good job of filtering it out,” he said. “Fish are the same way. Fish ingesting oil can cause their immune systems to fail, which make them sick.”

USF biological oceanographer John Paul said, “These sick fish are altering genes, which can cause mutations in their eggs. I am just waiting for the day a fisherman brings up fish with two heads.”

Paul stresses the scary thing about this is there is really nothing we can do to remedy the fishes’ sicknesses yet. He said, “Nature must take it course, and we must study it as much as we can.”


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