The dispersant, scientists say, has broken down the oil into droplets, making them small enough to find their way under the tiny crab larvae's shells. Dispersant "doesn't make the oil go away, it just puts it from one part of the ecosystem into another," one marine scientist says. On the surface of the Gulf, the oil slick has been rapidly vanishing, but what's happening to ecosystems beneath isn't fully understood.
A seemingly feel-good story showed up this week on the nation's front pages and newscasts: The oil that befouled the Gulf of Mexico for 86 days is vanishing from the surface, leaving workers with little to clean.
But scientists warn the oil's ecological impacts are shifting, not ebbing, thanks to massive volumes of dispersants that have kept the crude beneath the waves.