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Effects of water accommodated fraction of physically and chemically dispersed heavy fuel oil on beach spawning capelin (Mallotus villosus)

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Due to a northward shift in off-shore activities, including increased shipping traffic and oil and gas exploration there is a growing focus on the potential effects of oil pollution on Arctic marine ecosystems. Capelin (Mallotus villosus)is a small fish and a member of the smelt family, and is a key species in the marine food chain. Capelin are seasonally abundant in the Northern Atlantic and in coastal Arctic waters, e.g. in western Greenland and in the Barents Sea, where it undertakes aggregated spawning in the intertidal and subtidal zone. To study the possible effects of oil pollution on the physiology and development of early life stages in capelin, freshly fertilised capelin eggs were exposed to a water accommodated fraction of physically (WAF)and chemically (CEWAF)dispersed heavy fuel oil (IFO30)for 72 h. Subsequent mortality, hatching success, larvae malformations, growth and CYP1A/EROD activity was measured over a 4-week period. The nominal exposure concentrations of WAF and CEWAF were between 0.02 and 14.5 mg total hydrocarbon content (THC)L −1 and 0.5–304 mg THC L −1 , respectively. Egg mortality correlated significantly with WAF exposure concentration. The proportions of hatched eggs decreased with increasing CEWAF exposure concentration. Further, the percentage of malformed larvae with craniofacial abnormalities, body axis defects, generally under developed larvae, reduced total body length (dwarfs), correlated significantly with exposure concentrations in both CEWAF and WAF treatments. The four types of the predominant malformations were distributed differently in two parallel experiments. At the biochemical level, we observed a significant relationship between CEWAF exposure concentration and CYP1A/EROD activity in newly hatched larvae and this effect persisted for 3 weeks after the 72 h exposure. We conclude that even short-term exposure to both heavy fuel oil WAF and CEWAF, at environmentally relevant THC concentrations following an oil spill, may induce adverse developmental effects on the vulnerable early life stages of capelin. The mechanisms responsible for the observed effects on mortality, growth and embryo development in capelin eggs and embryos following WAF and CEWAF exposure require further studies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMarine Environmental Research
Pages (from-to)62-71
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - May 2019

    Research areas

  • Arctic, Biological effects, Capelin, CEWAF, Embryo, WAF

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