Editor's Spotlight

Crude oil toxicity to fiddler crabs (Uca longisignalis and Uca panacea) from the northern Gulf of Mexico: Impacts on bioturbation, oxidative stress, and histology of the hepatopancreas

The intensive drilling and extraction of fossil fuels in the Gulf of Mexico result in a considerable risk of 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 study investigated effects of oil on the fiddler crabs Uca longisignalis and Uca panacea, which are important as ecosystem engineers and as prey for a wide variety of species. The study used mesocosms and microcosms to investigate the 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 d to oil concentrations up to 55 mg/cm2 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, which 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 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.


19 December 2017