The Beacon

Blog Tags: Necropsies

Dissecting the Cause of Death in the Gulf

A kemp's ridley sea turtle. © Oceana/Cory Wilson

Warning: what follows isn’t exactly light reading.

The New York Times reported yesterday on the complicated task of performing necropsies -- i.e., animal autopsies -- on sea turtles and other creatures that have been found dead in the Gulf of Mexico since the spill started.

It’s not easy to determine the cause of death of these creatures. Of the 1,978 birds, 463 turtles and 59 marine mammals found dead in the Gulf since April 20th, few show visible signs of oil contamination.

And in the case of sea turtles, a more familiar culprit may be at fault: shrimp trawls and other commercial fishing gear that scoop up turtles as bycatch and prevent them from going to the surface to breathe.

Here’s a simplified breakdown of how the veterinary investigators begin to determine the cause of death:


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