Smithsonian Highlights How Scientists Study Fish Hearts’ Response to Oil

Derek Nelson performs open-heart surgery on a cobia fish. Photo credit: Dan DiNicola

Derek Nelson performs open-heart surgery on a cobia fish. Photo credit: Dan DiNicola

The Smithsonian’s Ocean Portal published an article that gives readers a fascinating look at how scientists monitor the heartbeat, blood flow, and blood pressure of mahi-mahi before and after oil exposure. Mahi-mahi, an important commercial fisheries species, rely on strong hearts to swim fast for long periods, and recent studies suggest that oil can weaken their hearts. A weak heart could lead to them not getting enough to eat or becoming the meal of a bigger predator.

Read the article Fish Heart Out of Water and meet scientists Rachael Heuer (University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science) and Derek Nelson (University of North Texas) who are figuring out how Deepwater Horizon oil might impact mahi-mahi and other fishes’ health.

Read summaries of recently published papers on fish response to oil exposure:


GoMRI and the Smithsonian have a partnership to enhance oil spill science content on the Ocean Portal website.

This research was made possible by a grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) to the RECOVER consortium (Relationships of Effects of Cardiac Outcomes in fish for Validation of Ecological Risk).

The GoMRI is a 10-year independent research program established to study the effect, and the potential associated impact, of hydrocarbon releases on the environment and public health, as well as to develop improved spill mitigation, oil detection, characterization and remediation technologies.  An independent and academic 20-member Research Board makes the funding and research direction decisions to ensure the intellectual quality, effectiveness and academic independence of the GoMRI research.  All research data, findings and publications will be made publicly available.  The program was established through a $500 million financial commitment from BP.  For more information, visit

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