Physiological Responses of Fish to Oil Spills

Martin Grosell, Christina Pasparakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Millions of tons of oil are spilled in aquatic environments every decade, and this oil has the potential to greatly impact fish populations. Here, we review available information on the physiological effects of oil and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on fish. Oil toxicity affects multiple biological systems, including cardiac function, cholesterol biosynthesis, peripheral and central nervous system function, the stress response, and osmoregulatory and acid-base balance processes. We propose that cholesterol depletion may be a significant contributor to impacts on cardiac, neuronal, and synaptic function as well as reduced cortisol production and release. Furthermore, it is possible that intracellular calcium homeostasismdasha part of cardiotoxic and neuronal function that is affected by oil exposuremdashmay be related to cholesterol depletion. A detailed understanding of oil impacts and affected physiological processes is emerging, but knowledge of their combined effects on fish in natural habitats is largely lacking. We identify key areas deserving attention in future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-160
Number of pages24
JournalAnnual Review of Marine Science
StatePublished - Jan 3 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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