2002 oil spill caused changes in the cell structure of mussels

Mar 25, 2009

The oil spill from the Prestige petroleum oil tanker in 2002 caused serious damage to the ecosystems in the Bay of Biscay. A PhD thesis at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) has studied the consequences of this spill for the mussels inhabiting this northern coast of the Iberian peninsula.

The author of the PhD thesis is the biologist Ms Larraitz Garmendia Altuna, who entitled her work, Monitoring of the of the Prestige oil spill, based on the biomarker approach: watch from Galicia to the Basque coast. The director of the thesis was Mr Ionan Marigómez Allende from the Department of Zoology and Animal Cell Biology at the UPV/EHU's Faculty of Science and Technology. In order to undertake the thesis Ms Garmendia visited the Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory, belonging to the Institute of Marine and Coastal Science of Rutgers State University (Port Norris, New Jersey, USA).

To analyse the biological effects of the oil spill from the Prestige tanker, the researcher studied the Mytilus galloprovincialis mussel. The samples for the research were taken at 22 points between the Galician coast (Finisterre) and Gulf of Biscay between 2003 and 2006. In order to observe the impact suffered by the mussels a number of biomarkers were controlled.

The study showed there had been changes at cell level in the mussels. Up to 2004 it could be seen that the lysosomes — organs responsible for cellular digestion — suffered drastic changes in size and the cell membrane had destabilised. From 2004 on the situation showed signs of recovery and the size of the lysosomes had returned to their reference values, although in 2006, the stability of the cell membrane in some samples were still not high.

At a tissue level, Ms Garmendia studied the cell types of the tissues from the digestive gland of the mussel. Between 2004 and 2005, serious changes were observed in these tissue in the samples from all the locations studied - atrophy of certain parts of the digestive gland, for example

The health of the mussels was studied through the control of certain biomarkers. Thus, as a result of the Prestige oil spill, the study showed that the state of health of the mussels had been seriously affected. Signs of recovery were observed in 2004 in the samples from Galicia and in 2005 in those from the Gulf of Bizkaia.

Moreover, changes in the immune response were observed in mussels during the first years of the study and, although this has improved somewhat, the 2006 samples indicate that it still has not recovered the situation prior to the oil spill.

Apart from the mussels, their environment was also studied. In 2003 environmental conditions prejudicial to the health of mussels were recorded. In 2004 the first signs of recovery were noted but, on terminating the research in 2006, they still had not reached conditions of a healthy ecosystem.

Source: Elhuyar Fundazioa

Explore further: Rolling lab tracks methane to its source

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Estonian oil spill threatens 35,000 birds

Feb 07, 2006

As many as 35,000 birds, including rare white-tailed eagles and eagle owls, are in danger as the result of an oil spill off Estonia's northwest coast.

Danes warned not to eat beach mussels

Jul 25, 2006

Danish environmental experts are warning people about the danger of eating mussels collected on beaches or off the coast of Denmark.

Recommended for you

Rolling lab tracks methane to its source

41 minutes ago

McHenry Township, Lycoming County. Equipped with a gray box, a map and an SUV, Thomas Lauvaux and a team from Penn State's Department of Meteorology has been at it for hours, taking measurements and racking ...

What we've learned from the Boxing Day tsunami

42 minutes ago

Much has been learned from the devastating experience of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, and it's had lasting benefits for disaster management plans in Australia, according to forensic staff from the University of Adelaide.

UN sends team to clean up Bangladesh oil spill

17 hours ago

The United Nations said Thursday it has sent a team of international experts to Bangladesh to help clean up the world's largest mangrove forest, more than a week after it was hit by a huge oil spill.

How will climate change transform agriculture?

17 hours ago

Climate change impacts will require major but very uncertain transformations of global agriculture systems by mid-century, according to new research from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

Report: Radiation leak at nuclear dump was small

17 hours ago

A final report by independent researchers shows the radiation leak from the federal government's underground nuclear waste repository in southern New Mexico was small and localized.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.