Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (MS)



NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Biology

First Advisor

Dr. Jim Gelsleichter

Second Advisor

Dr. Cliff Ross

Third Advisor

Dr. Dean Grubbs

Department Chair

Dr. Daniel Moon

College Dean

Dr. Barbra A. Hetrick


The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (DWH) released about 4.4 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), making it one of the largest oil spills in U.S. history. Additionally, the depth of the spill (i.e., 1500 meters) created a unique research opportunity because most oil spills occur at the surface and affect coastal rather than deepwater habitats. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are the most toxic components of oil, and are often the focus of oil exposure studies. PAHs are quickly metabolized by vertebrates; therefore, indicators of biological responses to PAH exposure (PAH “biomarkers”) such as the levels of PAH detoxification enzymes and the resulting metabolites are commonly used to examine oil exposure. This study measured multiple PAH biomarkers including hepatic activity of the PAH detoxification enzymes cytochrome P4501a1 (CYP1A) and glutathione-S-transferase (GST), as well as biliary PAH metabolites in deep sea sharks and bony fishes from areas affected by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Samples were collected from 2011-2013 from seven species of sharks, with special focus on the four most abundant deep sea species: Centrophorus niakang, Centrophorus cf granulosus, Squalus cubensis and Squalus cf mitsikurii. Overall enzyme activity was low in these sharks, yet it was higher in oiled sites compared to reference locations. Additionally some species showed declining CYP1A activity since the time of the oil spill, suggesting exposure to CYP-inducing compounds during the beginning of the survey period. Last, PAHs of a petrogenic nature were more abundant in oiled sites compared to reference locations. Overall, this project provides the much need biomarker data for sharks as well as insight on exposure and metabolism of PAHs in deep sea sharks after the DWH.