Birds, Sharks, Whales, Sea Turtles, and Other Wildlife Threatened By Oil Slick Nearing Coast

Birds, Sharks, Whales, Sea Turtles, and Other Wildlife Threatened By Oil Slick Nearing Coast

Alisa Opar
Published: 04/29/2010

Mottled Duck: Many marsh-dwelling birds are extremely secretive, hindering understanding of their population dynamics. Recovery efforts would be difficult or impossible if oil accumulates in the coastal salt marshes where they live. [Audubon] Photo: Peter Wallack, Wikimedia Commons 

Sea turtles: Several species of threatened sea turtles live, breed, and migrate in the Gulf. Although surprisingly robust when faced with physical damage such as shark attacks or boat strikes, these creatures are highly sensitive to oil. Oil causes increased egg mortality and developmental defects, direct mortality due to oiling in hatchlings, juveniles, and adults; and negative impacts to the skin, blood, digestive and immune systems, and salt glands. [NOAA]Photo: NOAA

Blue fin tuna: The spill is near the fish’s spawning grounds, which they inhabit from mid-April to June each year. The highly migratory tuna’s numbers are already quite low, in large part due to overfishing. [NOAA] Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Whale sharks: These polka-dotted fish can grow to be 40 feet long and sometimes gather in large numbers to feast on seasonal plankton blooms, as happened last summer when more than 400 appeared in the northern Gulf, baffling scientists. [Gulf Restoration Network] Photo: Zac Wolf, Wikimedia Commons (Georgia Aquarium)

Sperm whales: As of Wednesday, NOAA had received reports of at least seven sperm whales seen in the oil-impacted area. These mammals are endangered. [NOAA, NOLA] Photo: NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center

Oysters: The spill is nearing the rich oyster beds at the mouth of the Mississippi River. "When the oil starts to settle, it'll smother the oyster beds. It'll kill the oysters," said Gregory Bossart, chief veterinary officer for the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. Bossart points out that oil smothers plankton, which are fed on by crabs, mussels, oysters, and shrimp. [CNN]

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