Deepwater Horizon: the effects of the disaster on dolphins


On the Deepwater Horizon Shelf, off the Louisiana coast, a fire broke out in April 2010 that caused 800 million liters of oil to spill into the Gulf of Mexico, polluting the marine ecosystems of Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.

In the following years every effort was made to stem the problem as quickly as possible, calculating the damage that the accident caused to the environment . After more than 10 years, results have also arrived on the long-term damage of the marine population. The first study, published on PLOS Online , was conducted by the National Marine Mammal Foundation of San Diego and concerns the Louisiana dolphins.

The study was conducted on 71 dolphins living in the oil-polluted Louisiana Bay , which underwent genetic investigations between 2013 and 2018 . The results were then compared with analyzes of dolphins inhabiting Sarasota Bay , not affected by the disaster.

Numerous variations in gene expression have thus been identified in dolphins victims of the disaster and most of these are linked to genes on which the animal’s health depends. This means that there have been anomalies in how certain genes are translated, not that they have undergone mutations at the DNA level .

For example, a gene, PRG3 , which in humans is linked to the decline in lung health, is found in contaminated dolphins 8 times more than in healthy ones. In fact, the former are experiencing lung problems.


The sample studied, as pointed out by the authors, is small and further studies are needed to confirm these results.

  • The effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster on dolphins (


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