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






Date of this Version



Scientific Reports | (2019) 9:371


© The Author(s) 2019

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We assessed adverse effects of external sublethal exposure of Deepwater Horizon, Mississippi Canyon 252 oil on plasma and liver metabolome profiles of the double-crested cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), a large (1.5 to 3.0 kg) diving waterbird common in the Gulf of Mexico. Metabolomics analysis of avian plasma showed significant negative effects on avian metabolic profiles, in some cases after only two external exposures (26 g cumulative) to oil. We observed significant (p < 0.05) changes in intermediate metabolites of energy metabolism and fatty acid and amino acid metabolic pathways in cormorants after repeated exposure to oil. Exposure to oil increased several metabolites (glycine, betaine, serine and methionine) that are essential to the one-carbon metabolism pathway. Lipid metabolism was affected, causing an increase in production of ketone bodies, suggesting lipids were used as an alternative energy source for energy production in oil exposed birds. In addition, metabolites associated with hepatic bile acid metabolism were affected by oil exposure which was correlated with changes observed in bile acids in exposed birds. These changes at the most basic level of phenotypic expression caused by sublethal exposure to oil can have effects that would be detrimental to reproduction, migration, and survival in avian species.

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