Soaking Up the Oil: Biological Impacts of Dispersants and Crude Oil on the Sponge Halichondria panicea


Johanne Vad, F. Dunnett, Fengjia Liu, C. C. Montagner, J. Maurray Roberts, Theodore B. Henry


Used during an oil spill to minimise the formation of an oil slick, dispersants have negative biological effects on marine model organisms. However, no study has investigated the impacts of dispersants on sponges. Here, we examine the effects of water accommodated oil fraction (WAF – oil in seawater), chemically enhanced WAF (CEWAF – oil and dispersant in seawater) and Benzo[A]Pyrene on sponge Halichondria panicea at physiological and molecular levels. Sponge clearance rate decreased sharply when exposed to WAF and CEWAF but the oil loading at which the clearance rate was reduced by 50% (ED50) was 39-fold lower in CEWAF than in WAF. Transcriptomic analysis revealed a homogenous molecular response with the greatest number of differentially expressed genes identified in CEWAF samples (1461 genes). Specifically, genes involved in stress responses were up-regulated. This study presents evidence that the use of dispersants should be considered carefully in areas where sponges are present.

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Vad J, Dunnett F, Liu F, Montagner CC, Roberts JM, Henry TB.2020. Soaking up the oil: Biological impacts of dispersants and crude oil on the sponge Halichondria panicea. Chemosphere 257:e127109.