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Crude oil cardiotoxicity to red drum embryos is independent of oil dispersion energy

J.M. Morris, M. Gielazyn, M.O. Krasnec, R. Takeshita, H.P. Forth, J.S. Labenia, T.L. Linbo, B.L. French, J.A. Gill, D.H. Baldwin, N.L. Scholz, and J.P. Incardona


October 2, 2018

The potential bioavailability of toxic chemicals from oil spills to water column organisms such as fish embryos may be influenced by physical dispersion along an energy gradient. For example, a surface slick with minimal wave action (low energy) could potentially produce different toxic effects from high energy situations such as pressurized discharge from a blown wellhead. Here we directly compared the toxicity of water accommodated fractions (WAFs) of oil prepared with low and high mixing energy (LEWAFs and HEWAFs, respectively) using surface oil samples collected during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, and embryos of a representative nearshore species, red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus). Biological effects of each WAF type was quantified with several functional and morphological indices of developmental cardiotoxicity, providing additional insight into species-specific responses to oil exposure. Although the two WAF preparations yielded different profiles of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), cardiotoxic phenotypes were essentially identical. Based on benchmark thresholds for both morphological and functional cardiotoxicity, in general LEWAFs had lower thresholds for these phenotypes than HEWAFs based on total PAH measures. However, HEWAF and LEWAF toxicity thresholds were more similar when calculated based on estimates of dissolved PAHs only. Differences in thresholds were attributable to the weathering state of the oil samples.