Fish of the Gulf of Mexico show heart affectations

Scientists have said that oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has caused heart damage to tuna swimming in the affected area.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill spread certain chemicals present in crude oil like polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These chemicals have harmful effects on the hearts of embryonic and developing fish.

The molecules have distinct ring-like structures that lead to slowing of the heart beat, alterations in rhythm and even heart attacks at high exposures.

Findings of the study have demonstrated how crude oil chemicals can affect heart functions in the fish. Scientists have been trying to understand what impacts the disaster had on the tuna fish as the gulf is an important spawning ground for bluefin and yellowfin tuna.

Previous studies have also indicated that many of these fish were present in the area when the disaster took place in 2010. But these studies failed to provide the precise mechanism behind harmful effects of chemicals present in crude oil on many types of tuna fish.

“What we found was that oil blocked key processes in the cardiac cells involved with linking excitation to contraction, which means that beat to beat, we slowed the heart cells down and we also decreased their contractility”, Barbara Block, a professor of marine sciences at Stanford, told BBC News.

Scientists are of the belief that other animals swimming in water around the crippled rig would have experienced similar cardiac arrests because the mechanism involved operates in the same way in the heart of all vertebrates.

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