Photo via wikipedia
The Gulf oil disaster has done still unknowable damage to marine wildlife, with everything from fish to seabirds under threat. But at least one species is threatened with extinction -- the dwarf seahorse, a tiny animal less than two inches long which is unique to the Gulf Coast. It lives among the seagrass beds in shallow water most of the year, but huge chunks of these beds have been killed by the toxins from the spill. Project Seahorse warns of the danger for this creature as well as several other species of seahorse.
University of British Columbia notes the methods BP has used for the clean-up have not been exactly helpful to the species. Burning oil caught in mats of seagrass located in open water have killed some of the seahorses, which also killing off important habitat. And the use of chemical dispersants are also worrying.
"While the spill itself was catastrophic for these animals and ecosystems, the cleanup poses considerable threats, too," says Assoc. Prof. Heather Masonjones, a seahorse biologist at the University of Tampa. "The dispersants used to break up the oil cause some of the toxins to sink and spread, accumulating in their food sources and poisoning more animals."
The university instead recommends further use of booms and organic agents such as fertilizers.
The number of animals killed by the spill has been a sketchy sum, and even more sketchy is how harmed animals have been handled -- with even reports surfacing of BP burning sea turtles alive. But exactly to what extent all marine species in the area, from bluefin tuna to animals living just off the coast in marshlands, could be effected is still unknown. But one thing is for sure: it is not just the dwarf seahorses that are threatened with extinction. That's why the actions of conservationists like Jack Rudloe who is building a "Noah's Ark"-style preserve for impacted species is so important. Hopefully a small population of dwarf seahorses is setting up a temporary home among the crabs and fish spared from the spill.
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