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The Prestige oil spill caused changes in the cell structure of mussels
Date:3/25/2009

This release is available in Spanish.

The oil spill from the Prestige petroleum oil tanker in 2002 caused serious damage to the ecosystems in the Bay of Biscay. A PhD thesis at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) has studied the consequences of this spill for the mussels inhabiting this northern coast of the Iberian peninsula.

The author of the PhD thesis is the biologist Ms Larraitz Garmendia Altuna, who entitled her work, Monitoring of the biological effects of the Prestige oil spill, based on the biomarker approach: mussel watch from Galicia to the Basque coast. The director of the thesis was Mr Ionan Marigmez Allende from the Department of Zoology and Animal Cell Biology at the UPV/EHU's Faculty of Science and Technology. In order to undertake the thesis Ms Garmendia visited the Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory, belonging to the Institute of Marine and Coastal Science of Rutgers State University (Port Norris, New Jersey, USA).

To analyse the biological effects of the oil spill from the Prestige tanker, the researcher studied the Mytilus galloprovincialis mussel. The samples for the research were taken at 22 points between the Galician coast (Finisterre) and Gulf of Biscay between 2003 and 2006. In order to observe the impact suffered by the mussels a number of biomarkers were controlled.

Changes at cell level

The study showed there had been changes at cell level in the mussels. Up to 2004 it could be seen that the lysosomes organs responsible for cellular digestion suffered drastic changes in size and the cell membrane had destabilised. From 2004 on the situation showed signs of recovery and the size of the lysosomes had returned to their reference values, although in 2006, the stability of the cell membrane in some samples were still not high.

At a tissue level, Ms Ga
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