With the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico all over the news, I couldn’t help but wonder if dolphins could be hurt as bad as other marine organisms since they can at least swim away from the oil.
I was partially right. They can swim away from the spill, and their skin allows the oil to just run off them as they swim so it doesn’t cause any permanent harm.
However, they do need to breathe sometime. When they come up to the surface, if they happen to take in oil in their mouths or blowhole, it can cause serious damage to their airways, mucous membranes, or digestive tract (like a poison). Oil can also cause eye damage if it gets in their eyes.
Things only get worse from there because panicking or stressed dolphins will surface more often because they are breathing harder and need to breathe more often, which will expose them to more oil floating on the surface.