Capstone Title

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spills: A Review of the Threats to the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys kempii)

Defense Date

12-2014

Document Type

Capstone

Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

First Advisor

Curtis Burney

Second Advisor

Donald McCorquodale

Abstract

Five of the seven living species of sea turtle spend at least one part of their life cycle in the Gulf of Mexico. The most endangered species is the Kemp’s Ridley (Lepidochelys kempii). This species is greatly affected by the natural and anthropogenic factors that take place in the Gulf’s ecosystem. They are adversely impacted by oil from spills, leaks and seeps. The purpose of this work was to review the literature on the impacts of oil on the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle and evaluate the short term and long term effects during and after oil spills. Kemp’s Ridleys are directly affected by oil when they ingest, inhale, or come in contact with it. The use of dispersants as a cleanup method has lasting negative impacts on the health of a turtle. Toxins that accumulate in the water over time tend to accumulate in food webs and provide long term effects on the species. A primary focus is on the history and life-stages of the Kemp’s Ridley in the Gulf of Mexico and the relationships to the oil spills that have occurred in this body of water.

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