Following the Deepwater Horizon blowout, oil, degraded oil, oil mixed with dispersants, and management responses to the spill affected a variety of Gulf of Mexico organisms. This review provides examples of various documented impacts, common patterns, and trends across organisms and/or their environments, and discusses future implications as well as directions for future research. Organism effects are generally characterized as lethal and sublethal. Sublethal can be short term, long term, or permanent and multigenerational. We present individual examples of effects on behavioral response, olfaction, vision, cardiac function, and gene shift, based on research done in laboratories, mesocosm settings, and the field. Future research should emphasize collection and analysis of routine toxicological baselines and examine how and if molecular impacts cascade up to populations. This research will require development of rapid molecular tools and testing procedures to determine exposure compared to field-relevant exposure levels and to be able to extrapolate laboratory results to the field, especially given the mosaic of differing contaminant concentrations (below, at, or exceeding critical concentrations that result in lethal or sublethal effects) occurring in the environment. Recent chemical studies have identified a detectable suite of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon metabolites for which there are no toxicity data; further research is needed to determine their impacts on food webs.
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