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Gulf oil spill: Animals can't escape the muck

By: Laura Moss on June 5, 2010, 9:23 a.m.
oiled bird in Gulf of Mexico

Photo: Charlie Riedel/AP

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A symbol of disaster

Millions of gallons of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, and crude washed ashore on the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Florida. More than 400 species were threatened by the spill, and the timing couldn't have been worse.

Many Gulf fish were in their annual spawning season, and scientists agree that every fish and shellfish that came in contact with the oil probably died. Birds were especially vulnerable because they were breeding and nesting, and eggs exposed to oil can become britttle and be crushed under a bird's weight. Oil is also toxic to the skin of mammals like dolphins and whales, and breathing it in can cause lung damage or death.

When an oil spill occurs at sea, typically only 10 to 15 percent of it is recovered, and as the oil cleanup continues, experts agree that the effect on wildlife is disastrous. (Text: Laura Moss)