Polution Causes Defects in Marine Life

December 2, 2008

UK (Chattahbox) – When University of Exeter ecotoxicologist Ceri Lewis began her research into the embryonic development of marine life, she didn’t at all expect what she uncovered. According to her and her colleagues, “wonky babies” are being born, with disfigurements being caused by unprotected sperm being exposed to pollution, which in turn destabilized the DNA. It’s a disturbing finding, but the causes are clear.

Many different types of marine life release their sperm or eggs into the seawater, hoping for the right conditions to cause implantation and begin a new generation of young. But when the sperm makes it’s way through the ocean, it is left unprotected, and so when it encounters pollutants, it has to no way to keep from being infused with the toxins, and so compromised. When the sperm does find an egg, it causes many complications. The DNA damage can be severe, and the results are disturbing.

But how is the development effected in the embryo? According to the British researchers, the cells of an organism should split in half over and over again symmetrically, which was not occurring in the marine samples. So pieces of the tissue were developing incorrectly, causing them to be either bigger or smaller then they should have been.

“And the more skewed the cleavage, the less likely that a developing animal will make it to a swimming larval stage,” says Lewis. “It’s intriguing and we’d like to find out how they manage it.”


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