Marine Biology

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 75-88

First online:

Characteristics of dispersions and water-soluble extracts of crude and refined oils and their toxicity to estuarine crustaceans and fish

  • J. W. AndersonAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Texas A & M University
  • , J. M. NeffAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Texas A & M University
  • , B. A. CoxAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Texas A & M University
  • , H. E. TatemAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Texas A & M University
  • , G. M. HightowerAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Texas A & M University

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The quantitative hydrocarbon composition and behavior in seawater of water-soluble fractions (WSF) and oil-in-water dispersions (OWD) of 4 oils was investigated. Two crude oils, South Louisiana crude and Kuwait crude, and two refined oils, No. 2 fuel oil and bunker C residual oil, were used in these investigations. The WSFs of the crude oils had higher total oil-hydrocarbon concentrations and were richer in light aliphatics and single-ring aromatics than were the WSFs of the refined oils. The WSFs of the refined oils contained significantly higher concentrations of naphthalenes than did those of the crudes. The hydrocarbon composition of the aqueous phase of OWDs closely resembled that of the parent oils. Gentle aeration of the OWDs resulted in a loss of 80 to 90% of the aqueous hydrocarbons in 24 h. Alkanes disappeared from the dispersions more rapidly than aromatics. The WSFs and OWDs of the refined oils were considerably more toxic to the 6 test species than were those of the crude oils. The test species can be ranked according to increasing sensitivity to oil as follows: Cyprinodon variegatus, Menidia beryllina, Fundulus similus, Penaeus aztecus postlarvae, Palaemonetes pugio and Mysidopsis almyra. The results of this investigation are discussed in relation to the potential impacts of oil spills on the marine and estuarine environments.