Assessing the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill with a dependable baseline comparison can provide reliable insight into environmental stressors on organisms that were potentially affected by the spill. Fluctuating asymmetry (small, non-random deviations from perfect bilateral symmetry) is an informative metric sensitive to contaminants that can be used to assess environmental stress levels. For this study, the well-studied and common Gulf of Mexico estuarine fish, Menidia beryllina, was used with pre and post-oil spill collections. Comparisons of fluctuating asymmetry in three traits (eye diameter, pectoral fin length, and pelvic fin length) were made pre and post-oil spill across two sites (Old Fort Bayou and the Pascagoula River), as well as between years of collection (2011, 2012)-one and two years, respectfully, after the spill in 2010. We hypothesized that fluctuating asymmetry would be higher in post-Deepwater Horizon samples, and that this will be replicated in both study areas along the Mississippi Gulf coast. We also predicted that fluctuating asymmetry would decrease through time after the oil spill as the oil decomposed and/or was removed. Analyses performed on 1135 fish (220 pre and 915 post Deepwater Horizon) showed significantly higher post spill fluctuating asymmetry in the eye but no difference for the pectoral or pelvic fins. There was also higher fluctuating asymmetry in one of the two sites both pre and post-spill, indicating observed asymmetry may be the product of multiple stressors. Fluctuating asymmetry decreased in 2012 compared to 2011. Fluctuating asymmetry is a sensitive measure of sub lethal stress, and the observed variability in this study (pre vs. post-spill or between sites) could be due to a combination of oil, dispersants, or other unknown stressors.
Michaelsen, S. A.,
Schaefer, J. F.,
Peterson, M. S.
(2015). Fluctuating Asymmetry in Menidia beryllina Before and After the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. PLoS ONE, 10(2), 1-11.
Available at: https://aquila.usm.edu/fac_pubs/16267