Fur, Feathers and Oil
Name: Kim H.
In our research of oil spills, we have read about animals
that die once the oil is absorbed by their fur or feathers. Why does an
animal's fur or feathers absorb oil but repell water?
The fur and feathers of aquatic animals and birds contain water repellent
oils and fats secreted by the creatures. These are chemically quite
different than the oils and tars found in crude oil. The crude does two
things: 1. It dissolves the natural oils at least partly and 2. Add weight
to the creature. So not only is the animal less water repellent, it is
weighed down by the crude oil.
Its very mush like the natural lanolin in a sheep's wool. It coats the wool
fibers to repel water. Now remember the basic principle of "like dissolves
like"... in this case the crude oil dissolves away the birds normal oils in
its feathers and then the toxic crude oil penetrates to the skin and is
absorbed into the blood and kills the bird.
Click here to return to the Zoology Archives
Update: June 2012