Marine Biology

How Oil Spills Affect Penguins



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Oil spills are one of the biggest man-made unnatural disasters to ever happen in human history. One recent example is the oil spill that engulfed the Gulf of Mexico after the British Petroleum (BP) oil rig known as the Deepwater Horizon had exploded. States along the Gulf Coast such as Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama had suffered devastation to their coastlines, wildlife habitats, beaches, and so forth. There is still plenty of dead sea life such as fish and dolphins along the coastlines as their lives were claimed by the toxic oil. Many fish, birds, and marine mammals fall risk to oil spills. Penguins are by no means an exception.


According to a paper on Thinkquest, oil spills are considered to be a major problem for penguins. This is due to many reasons for the most part. First off, penguins do not fly. Penguins do swim and have to go up to surface to breathe.


It explains that the Magellanic Penguins off the coast of Argentina are killed by oil spilling out into the ocean due to empty tankers filling their tanks with water. The mixture of oil and water gets discharged into the ocean as it affects and kills off the Magellanic Penguins.


Oil proves to be detrimental to the penguins in several ways. The first way is that the oils take away the waterproofing property of the penguins' feathers. As a result, the penguins get soaked and can fall susceptible to hypothermia. That is combined with the loss of their natural insulation to keep them warm. If you pay attention to the climate of the regions the penguins are found, you can understand why penguins depend on the waterproofing and insulating properties of their feathers. An oil spill can simply take the protective properties away from the penguin population.


While covered in the oil, the penguins will try to preen themselves. As a result, they poison themselves by ingesting the oil. Thus, their organs fail from the toxicity of the oil. Because of that, the penguins die.


It becomes more dangerous during mating/breeding season. For mating, an oil spill would adversely affect the number of available mates. During breeding season, an oil spill would wipe out the parents and leave the offspring dangerously vulnerable to predators.


As oil kills off other marine life, there is less food for the penguins. However, penguins can further poison themselves by feeding on the tainted sea life. Also, penguins could be unable to hunt and eventually starve to death because they are unable to float in the water.


By cross referencing the adversities of penguins with that of other animals during oil spills, you can understand how the penguins are just as affected as the other animals. Due to the amount of penguins that are harmed by oil spills, often caused by recklessness, it further reinforces the need to utilize alternate energy sources.   


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