Impacts of deepwater horizon oil on fish

Christina Pasparakis, Andrew J. Esbaugh, Warren Burggren, Martin Grosell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


An explosion on the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil rig in 2010 lead to the largest marine oil spill to occur in US history, resulting in significant impacts to the ecosystems and organisms in the Northern Gulf of Mexico (GoM). The present review sought to summarize and discuss findings from the 50+ peer-reviewed publications reporting effects of DWH oil exposure on teleost fish, and concludes that oil toxicity is a multi-target, multi-organ syndrome with substantial species-specific sensitivity differences. Of the 15 species tested with characterized exposures, 20% show effects at concentrations <1 μg l−1 while 50% display effects at <8.6 μg l−1 ΣPAH50, concentrations well within the range of reported environmental levels during the spill. Cardiotoxic effects are among the most frequently reported endpoints in DWH oil exposure studies and are thought to have significant downstream effects on fitness and survival. However, additional and possibly cardio-toxic independent impacts on sensory function and behavior are reported at very low exposure concentrations (< 1 μg l−1 ∑PAH50) and are clearly deserving of further study. Available information about modes of action leading to different categories of effects are summarized in the present review. An overview of the literature illustrates that early life stages (ELS) are approximately 1-order of magnitude more sensitive than corresponding later life stages, but also illustrates that adults can be impacted at concentrations as low as 4 μg l−1 ΣPAH50. The majority of studies exploring DWH oil toxicity in fish are performed using acute exposures (1–2 days), mid-range test temperatures (26–28 °C) and measure effects at the molecular to organismal levels, leaving a pressing need for more long-term exposures, exposures at the upper and lower levels of GoM relevant temperatures, and studies investigating population level impacts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108558
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part - C: Toxicology and Pharmacology
StatePublished - Oct 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Toxicology
  • Cell Biology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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