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BP Oil Spill to Blame for Dolphin Deaths
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BP Oil Spill to Blame for Dolphin Deaths

Over two years later and the effects of the BP Oil Spill off the Gulf of Mexico are still evident.

A two year study published by the University of Central Florida suggests that the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill contributed to an unusually high rate of dolphin deaths in the Gulf.

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill took place April of 2010,releasing 4.9 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf before being capped in July. In a statement, BP revealed that the estimate total cost of the spill has reached $38 billion.

From January to April 2011, a year after the spill, almost 186 dead bottlenose dolphins washed ashore the coasts of Florida and Louisiana.The most distressing part is that almost half of these casualties were calves. Scientists are blaming both natural factors and human events for these deaths.

"Unfortunately, it was a 'perfect storm' that led to the dolphin deaths," Graham Worthy, a biologist at the University of Central Florida said.

"The oil spill and coldwater of 2010 had already put significant stress on their food resources. It appears the high volumes of cold freshwater coming from snow melt water that pushed through Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound in 2011 was the final blow."

According to Worthy and other scientists, the unusually cold winter of 2010 already put stress on marine wildlife-6% of the manatee population died off due to cold stress. Just before the dolphins started washing ashore around January 2011, meltwater from a Mobile Bay watershed snowfall hit the Gulf and temperatures dropped more than the dolphins were used to. Adding on the oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill sealed their fate.

While normally dolphins are able to handle fluctuating temperatures, a survey by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) showed that the dolphins were all severely underweight and anemic, indicating their struggle even before the cold hit.

So how does BP play into all this? Evidence suggests that the BP Oil Spill affected the dolphin food chain, making prey limited in the midst of breeding season, according to the study published in open-access journal PLoS ONE.

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