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The intensive drilling and extraction of fossil fuels in the Gulf of Mexico result in a considerable risk for oil spills impacting its coastal ecosystems. Impacts are more likely to be far-reaching if the oil affects ecosystem engineers like fiddler crabs, whose activities modify biogeochemical processes in the sediment. The present study investigated effects of oil on the fiddler crabs Uca longisignalis and Uca panacea; important as ecosystem engineers and as prey for a wide variety of species. The present study used mesocosms and microcosms to investigate effects of crude oil on fiddler crab burrowing and to assess cellular and tissue damage by the oil. Fiddler crabs were exposed for periods of 5 or 10 days to oil concentrations up to 55 mg/cm(2) on the sediment surface. Their burrowing was delayed, their burrows were smaller, and they transported less sediment in the presence of oil. The hepatopancreas had elevated levels of oxidative stress and a higher abundance of blister cells that play a role in secretory processes. Interspecific differences were observed; most effects were strongest in U. panacea though burrowing was more strongly affected in U. longisignalis. The present study demonstrates that crude oil is likely to impact fiddler crabs and many species that depend on them for their diet or for the ecological changes that result from their burrowing. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Environmental toxicology and chemistry
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