U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Harr, K.E., Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2017.04.010


U.S. government work.


During the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment, gross morphologic cardiac abnormalities, including softer, more distensible musculature, were noted upon gross necropsy in hearts from laughing gulls and double-crested cormorants exposed to weathered MC252 crude oil. A species specific, echocardiographic technique was developed for antemortem evaluation of function that was used to evaluate and better characterize cardiac dysfunction. Control (n=12) and treated (n=13) cormorant groups of similar sex-ratio and ages were dermally treated with approximately 13 ml of water or weathered MC252 crude oil, respectively, every 3 days for 6 dosages. This resulted in a low to moderate external exposure. Upon visualization and clinical assessment of the hearts of all test subjects, comprehensive diagnostic cardiographic measurements were taken twice, prior to oil application and after a 21 day dermal oil exposure. Oil-treated birds showed a decrease in cardiac systolic function, as characterized by an increased left ventricular internal dimension-systole and left ventricular stroke volume as well as concurrent decreased left ventricular ejection fraction and left ventricular fractional shortening when compared to both control birds’ and the treated birds’ time zero values. These changes are indicative of a possible dilative cardiomyopathy induced by oil exposure, although further elucidation of possible collagen damage is recommended. Arrhythmias including tachycardia in two treated birds and bradycardia in all treated birds were documented, indicating further clinically significant abnormalities induced by MC252 oil that warrant further investigation. A statistically significant increase in free calcium concentration, important to muscular and neurologic function in treated birds was also noted. This study documents that weathered MC252 oil caused clinically significant cardiac dysfunction that could result in mortality and decrease recruitment.

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