Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Hydrocarbons in the seawater and pelagic organisms of the Southern Ocean


The aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbon content of seawater and a selection of marine pelagic organisms from the Bransfield Strait, Antarctica were evaluated. The patterns of the hydrocarbons found indicated that their origin was biogenic and there was no evidence for anthropogenic hydrocarbons in the Antarctic marine ecosystem. Hydrocarbons which are constituents of man made materials are present throughout the region but not in the patterns characteristic of anthropogenic origin. Recent reports of an even carbon number predominance in Antarctic marine organisms were not corroborated in this study. A number of biogenic compounds were investigated as suitable markers to monitor pathways of hydrocarbons in the Antarctic food chain. Specific compounds (probably branched chain alkenes) were found to occur at more than one trophic level. Polyaromatic hydrocarbons were present in all organisms but were undetectable in 44% of the seawater samples.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Blumer M, Sass J (1972) Indigenous and petroleum-derived hydrocarbons in a polluted sediment. Mar Pollut Bull 6:92–94

  2. Blumer M, Guillard RRL, Chase T (1971) Hydrocarbons in marine phytoplankton. Mar Biol 8:183–189

  3. Clarke A (1984) Lipid content and composition of Antarctic Krill Euphausia superba Dana. J Crust Biol 4 (Spec No 1):285–294

  4. Clarke A, Law R (1981) Aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons in benthic invertebrates from two sites in Antarctica. Mar Pollut Bull 12:10–14

  5. Clarke A, Quetin LB, Ross RM (1988) Laboratory and field estimates of the rate of faecal pellet production by Antarctic Krill, Euphausia superba. Mar Biol 98:557–563

  6. Cooper JE, Bray EE (1963) A postulated role of fatty acids in petroleum formation. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 27:1113–1127

  7. Cripps GC (1989) The analysis of hydrocarbons in marine samples. British Antarctic Survey Occasional Publication, Cambridge UK (v) 13pp

  8. Gordon DC, Keizer PD, Dale J (1974) Estimates using fluorescence spectroscopy of the present state of petroleum hydrocarbon contamination in the water column of the north-west Atlantic Ocean. Mar Chem 8:299–318

  9. Hardy R, Mackie PR, Whittle KJ, McIntyre AD, Blackman RAA (1977) Occurrence of hydrocarbons in the surface film, sub-surface water and sediment in the waters around the United Kingdon. Rapp p-V Reun Cons Int Explor Mer 171:61–65

  10. Hô R, Marty JC, Saliot A (1984) Hydrocarbons in the western Mediterranean. In: Albaiges J, Frei JW, Merian E (eds) Chemistry and analysis of hydrocarbons in the environment. Gordon and Breach, London, pp 232–251

  11. Hodgson GW, Stonkus OM, Sergy G A (eds) (1987) Baffin Island Oil Spill Project (BIOS). Arctic 40 (suppl 1)

  12. Mackie PR, Platt HM, Hardy R (1978) Hydrocarbons in the marine environment. II. Distribution of n-alkanes in the fauna and environment of the sub-antarctic island of South Georgia. Est Coast Mar Sci 6:301–313

  13. Mackarov RR, Denys GJ (1981) Stages of sexual maturity of Euphausia superba. BIOMASS handbook no 11. SCAR and SCOR Scott Polar Res Inst, Cambridge UK, 14pp

  14. Marty JC, Saliot A (1976) Hydrocarbons (n-alkanes) in the surface microlayer of seawater. Deep-Sea Res 23:863–873

  15. Marty JC, Saliot A, Tissier MJ (1978) Inventaire, répartition et origine des hydrocarbures aliphatiques et polyaromatiques dans l'eau de mer, la microcouche de surface et les aérosols marins en Atlantique tropical Est. C R Acad Sci, Ser D 286:833–836

  16. Miller DGM, Hampton I (1989) A review of the biology and ecology of the Antartic kill (Euphausia superba Dana). BIOMASS, vol 9. SCAR and SCOR Scott Polar Res Inst, Cambridge UK, pp 166

  17. Morris DJ, Watkins JL, Ricketts C, Buchhols F, Priddle J (1988) An assessment of the merits of length and weight measurements of Antarctic Krill Euphausia superba. Br Antarct Surv Bull 79:27–50

  18. Mullins BW, Priddle J (1987) Relationships between bacteria and phytoplankton in the Bransfield Strait and southern Drake Passage. Br Antarct Surv Bull 76:51–64

  19. Nachman RJ (1985) Unusual predominance of even carbon hydrocarbons in an Antarctic food chain. Lipids 20:629–633

  20. Neff JM (1979) Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the aquatic environment. Applied Science Publishers, London

  21. Nichols PD, Volkman JK, Palmisano AC, Smith GA, White DC (1988) Occurrence of an isoprenoid C25 diunsaturated alkene and high neutral lipid content in Antarctic sea-ice diatom communities. J. Phycol 24:90–96

  22. Platt HM, Mackie PR (1980) Distribution and fate of aromatic and aliphatic hydrocarbons in Antarctic fauna and environment. Helgolwiss Meeresunters 33:236–245

  23. Reinhardt SB, Van Vleet ES (1986) Hydrocarbons of Antarctic midwater organisms. Polar Biol 6:47–51

  24. Rowedder U (1979) Feeding ecology of the myctophid Electrona antarctica. Meeresforschung 27:252–263

  25. Saliot A (1981) Natural hydrocarbons in sea water. In: Duursma EK, Dawson R (eds) Marine organic chemistry. Elsevier Oceanography Ser No31, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, pp 327–374

  26. Ventajas L (1985) Determination of petroleum residues (spills and waste disposals) in Antarctic waters. Contribucion 315, Instituto Antartico Argentine, Buenos Aires

  27. Ventajas L (1986) Distribution of the concentration of polynuclear hydrocarbons along the length of the Weddell Sea. Contribucion 320, Instituto Antartico Argentino, Buenos Aires

  28. Watkins JL, Morris DJ, Ricketts C, Priddle J (1986) Differences between swarms of Antarctic krill and some implications for sampling krill populations. Mar Biol 93:137–146

  29. Whittle KJ, Mackie PR, Hardy R, McIntyre AD, Blackman RAA (1977) The alkanes of marine organisms from the United Kingdom and surrounding waters. Rapp p-V Reun Cons Int Explor Mer 171:72–78

  30. Youngblood WW, Blumer M (1975) Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the environment: homologous series in soils and recent marine sediments. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 39:1304–1314 ]

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Cripps, G.C. Hydrocarbons in the seawater and pelagic organisms of the Southern Ocean. Polar Biol 10, 393–402 (1990).

Download citation


  • Hydrocarbon
  • Southern Ocean
  • Carbon Number
  • Seawater Sample
  • Anthropogenic Origin