News of the WeekGulf Oil Disaster

No 'Smoking Gun' for Killer Oil

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Science  04 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5983, pp. 1214-1215
DOI: 10.1126/science.328.5983.1214-b

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As turtle and dolphin corpses wash up on Gulf of Mexico beaches, scientists face a sleuthing challenge worthy of CSI: determining whether oil had a hand in the deaths. In the past month, the stranding network operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has counted more than 200 dead sea turtles and more than 20 dead dolphins. Turtles normally strand during the summer nesting season, and the number of strandings in May has averaged 47 in the past 5 years. Although that's far below the current tally, none of the dead turtles had oil on its shell or skin, only one dolphin appeared to be oiled, and the 67 turtle necropsies that had been performed when Science went to press had failed to find oil internally. However, officials are loath to either implicate or rule out oil as the culprit.