The oil industry’s latest disaster has arrived on the shores of Santa Barbara, California, where an underground pipeline ruptured and spilled an estimated 21,000 gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean. We don’t know the full extent of the damage yet — in the worst-case scenario, we could be looking at something more like 105,000 gallons spilled — but officials say the oil, which has separated into two large patches, has coated at least nine miles of coastline; Wednesday evening, California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the county.
Scientists are now confident the abnormally high numbers of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)
that have died—and continue to die—in the oil spill area are suffering
from ailments caused by oil byproducts. Although researchers don’t have
exact numbers of how many dolphins perished following the spill, they’ve
found 1281 stranded and dead between 30 April 2010 and 17 May 2015—the
highest number ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico. Barataria Bay,
Louisiana, was particularly hard hit by the spill. Half of the dead
dolphins found in this region between June 2010 and November 2012 had a
thin adrenal gland cortex—a key indicator of an ailment known as adrenal
insufficiency which often leads to death in dolphins, particularly
among those who are pregnant. This
same lesion was found in one of every three dolphins examined in
oil-contaminated areas across Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, the team reports in PLOS ONE.