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The Effects of Oil on Wildlife
Monday, July 5, 2010
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Blogger Profile

David Manly
Freelance Science Journalist
Toronto Ontario CAN

David Manly is a freelance journalist who will blog about a wide range of topics that all fall under the umbrella of zoology and ecology. While his expertise lies with reptiles and amphibians, he has a wide array of knowledge and interest in all animal species - from the sponge to the great ape. He hopes you will enjoy his blog, as he plans to make it both entertaining and enjoyable (as well as fill it with interesting facts, tidbits, photos and videos).

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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An oil covered brown pelican from the BP oil spill
Sunday, June 27, 2010

The BP oil spill in the Gulf has been going on for approximately 70 days, and it shows no sign of slowing down. I am sure I am not the only one who has noticed a decrease in the amount of news coverage surrounding the spill in recent days, and I am not surprised. The public tends to get tired of the same stories re-told over and over, which is why I am going to discuss something that has not been widely discussed.

How exactly does oil affect animal life?

One of the best ways to describe the effects of oil on animals is to discuss some of the most documented casualties, which are birds and mammals.

Birds are some of the best known casualties of an oil spill, and I am sure we have all seen the pictures and videos of the oil soaked pelican struggling to remove itself from a pile of oil.

Through contact with the oil, birds and mammals will lose the insulation provided by the air pockets beneath their feathers or fur. This can result in them dying from hypothermia, or even weigh the animals down so much that they cannot remain buoyant in the water and drown.

When birds and mammals get covered in oil, they will try to clean it off, which causes them to ingest and/or inhale oil and coat their throats and sinuses. This alone can kill them, but the chemicals within the oil will most likely cause cancer in various organs to form and ravish the animals from the inside out.

Predators are also affected, as they will eat the oil covered animals, and most likely die themselves. According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, avian and mammalian scavenger populations can be severely damaged by an oil spill.

Fish are another casualty from an oil spill, as they can be impacted through the gills, or the oil could be ingested through their prey. Also, since fish spawn and mate in the water, oil can cause detrimental growth in both adults and juveniles.

The oil spill is a global disaster that deserves not to be pushed aside to make room for "newer news."

Not all my posts will be as negative and depressing as this, but this is something that I needed to get off my chest for a while. So, thank you for listening, and I promise the post next week will not be as sad. I hope you will join me in exploring the Wonderful World of Animals here on LabSpaces!

Information provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department of the Interior.

To find out how you can help the oil spill clean up, please check out the website National Wildlife Federation or the World Wildlife Fund.

You also may want to look at this interesting website, entitled Daily Dead Birds, which has a counter updated daily on the amount of dead birds, sea turtles and mammals from the Gulf oil spill.

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Blog Comments

Guest Comment
That was a great piece!
I only wish that news organizations would focus more on these kinds of issues and facts, as these are the kinds of things that can spur people into action.
Fascinating article, and I will now become a regular reader of LabSpaces and its blogs. Can't wait to see what else you post :)

Guest Comment
Great piece that highlights an important issue, which too many news organizations are ignoring. Thanks for making this science-related post accessible.

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Great piece! This is showing my ignorance but on the Daily Dead Birds website it says that some wildlife has been cleaned and released - where are they released? Is it back into the oil or into a new area?

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Really enjoyed your timely information, presented in easy-to-understand language without being condescending or trivial.

Guest Comment
Thanks for this article. When you hear about the oil spill in the news all that is discussed is the economic and politcal impact it will have. More people like you need to stand up and talk about th bigger issue here, the environmental impact!
Chris R

Guest Comment

The wild life sruggle that, unless one had their head in the sand, so many witnessed was truly tragic.  While we do not live in a coastal area and were not directly affectd by this insidious event, we were no less saddened by the plight that these beautiful animals suffered.  Let us hope that those in the oil industry are far more responsible in the future.

Sharmaine Hansen

Guest Comment
Great post. Very helpful information. Wildlife rescue magazine is devoted to the care and emergency training f our beautiful Australian wildlife.
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