NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Scientists are reporting early signs that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is altering the marine food web by killing or tainting some creatures and spurring the growth of others more suited to a fouled environment.
Near the spill site, researchers have documented a massive die-off of pyrosomes - cucumber-shaped, gelatinous organisms fed on by endangered sea turtles.
Along the coast, droplets of oil are being found inside the shells of young crabs that are a mainstay in the diet of fish, turtles and shorebirds.
And at the base of the food web, tiny organisms that consume oil and gas are proliferating.
If such impacts continue, the scientists warn of a reshuffling of sealife that could over time cascade through the ecosystem and imperil the region's fishing industry.