Effects of Deepwater Horizon Oil on the movement and survival of Marsh Periwinkle Snails (Littoraria irrorata)
Authors: T. Ross Garner, Michael A. Hart, Lauren E. Sweet, Hanna T. J. Bagheri, Jeff Morris, James A. Stoeckel, and Aaron P. Roberts
The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill resulted in the release of millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and some marsh shorelines experienced heavy oiling including vegetation laid over under the weight of oil. Periwinkle snails (Littoraria irrorata) are a critical component of these impacted habitats, and population declines following oil spills, including DWH, have been documented. This study determined the effects of oil on marsh periwinkle movement and survivorship following exposure to oil. Snails were placed in chambers containing either unoiled or oiled laid over vegetation to represent a heavily impacted marsh habitat, with unoiled vertical structure at one end. In the first movement assay, snail movement to standing unoiled vegetation was significantly lower in oiled chambers (oil thickness ≈ 1 cm) compared to unoiled chambers, as the majority (∼75%) of snails in oiled habitats never reached standing unoiled vegetation after 72 h. In a second movement assay, there was no snail movement standing unoiled structure in chambers with oil thicknesses of 0.1 and 0.5 cm, while 73% of snails moved in unoiled chambers after 4h. A toxicity assay was then conducted by exposing snails to oil coated Spartina stems in chambers for periods up to 72 h, and mortality was monitored for 7 days post exposure. Snail survival decreased with increasing exposure time, and significant mortality (∼35%) was observed following an oil exposure of less than 24 h. Here, we have shown that oil impeded snail movement to clean habitat over a short distance and resulted in oil-exposure times that decreased survival. Taken together, along with declines documented by others in field surveys, these results suggest that marsh periwinkle snails may have been adversely affected following exposure to DWH oil.
T. Ross Garner, Michael A. Hart, Lauren E. Sweet, Hanna T. J. Bagheri, Jeff Morris, James A. Stoeckel, and Aaron P. Roberts. 2017. Effects of Deepwater Horizon Oil on the Movement and Survival of Marsh Periwinkle Snails (Littoraria irrorata). American Chemical Society: Environmental Science & Technology 51: 8757-8762.