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Oil spills damage bone and skeletal development in cod. (Photo: Sam Penglase/NIFES/FIS)

Oil-spills can affect bone develpment in cod: study

Click on the flag for more information about Norway NORWAY
Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 23:30 (GMT + 9)

Pollution resulting from oil-spills can disturb bone developmental processes in cod larvae, according to a study performed by the National Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research (NIFES) in collaboration with SINTEF.

The scientists who made this finding were studying what occurs with the genes that control bone and skeletal development in cod that have been exposed to oil pollution.

“It looks as though oil has negative effects on bone development in cod at an early stage,” says NIFES scientist Kai Kristoffer Lie.

There are plans for oil production close to important spawning grounds off Lofoten and Vesterålen in north Norway, and the background of the study is the need for better knowledge of how oil-spills will affect cod.

In the wake of a spill, various chemical components of the oil dissolve and are dispersed into the depths of the water column by the wind, sun and waves, exposing cod larvae to undesirable substances at a critical phase of their development.

The researchers studied the effects of simulated oil-spills on cod larvae. NIFES found that the expression of genes that stimulate bone formation was down-regulated, while genes that are involved in resorption were up-regulated. This suggests that the oil led to an imbalance in the natural process of bone development in cod larvae, according to the study that has just been published in the journal Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology.

“We know that cod are particularly vulnerable to physical injury in this early phase, if their bones are weak. This does not necessarily mean that they will be deformed when the fish are bigger, but there is good reason for assuming that it could affect their survival potential, so it will be interesting to see how the changes we have observed influence skeletal development over time,” says Lie.

The research team will now go on to identify which substances in the oil affects cod bone development. The project forms part of a major cooperative effort between NIFES and SINTEF that aims to determine how oil affects cod.

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