• Program Information


Is Exposure to Genotoxic Metals Part of the Toxic Legacy of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Crisis?

Session Title   Ecosystems of the Open Ocean: Microbes Mammals and Models
Presenter Last Name   Wise
Presenter First Name   John
Presenter Affiliation   University of Southern Maine
Presenter Email   john.wise@maine.edu
Authors   John Pierce Wise, Sr., University of Southern Maine; John Pierce Wise, Jr., University of Southern Maine and Ocean Alliance; James Wise, University of Southern Maine and Ocean Alliance; Christopher Perkins, University of Connecticut; W. Douglas Thompson, University of Southern Maine
Abstract   In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster of 2010, we collected tissue samples from sperm whales in order to determine the effects of the oil and chemical dispersants on their population. We focused on whales because they are at the top of the food chain and they are biologically similar to humans. Sperm whales live and feed at the same depth as the Deepwater Horizon well head, placing them at high risk to this disaster. Concern has largely focused on oil and dispersants while the potential threat of genotoxic metals in the oil has gone largely overlooked. Genotoxic metals, such as chromium and nickel, damage DNA and bioaccumulate in organisms resulting in longer exposures. Analysis of sperm whale skin samples showed mean levels of Ni and Cr at significantly higher levels than those found in whales collected around the world prior to the spill. We found Cr and Ni levels ranged from 0.4-94.63 ppm in tissue collected from Gulf of Mexico whales in the wake of the crisis, with mean Ni and Cr levels of 14.9 and 12.0 ppm, respectively. In addition, we found Cr and Ni levels ranged from 0.24-8.46 ppm in crude oil from the riser, oil slicks from surface waters and tar balls from Gulf beaches. Maps of where we collected our samples showed the highest metal levels in whales closest to the epicenter. Given the capacity of these metals to break DNA, their presence in the oil and their elevated levels in whales, we believe metal exposure is an important overlooked concern for the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Further analysis is underway to determine the impact of this disaster on the genetic health of the whales and the long term impact in years following.
Presentation Type   Poster
Session Number   006
Date Monday, January 21
Time   1630-1830
Location Mardi Gras Ballroom
Student? No
Invited Talk? No

QR Code Business Card