Friday, 21 March 2014

Algae toxin causes epilepsy in sea lions

March 2014: California sea lions exposed to a toxin in algae develop a form of epilepsy that is similar to the condition in humans, say scientists.

Every year, hundreds of sea lions wash up along the California coast, suffering seizures caused by exposure to domoic acid, a neurotoxin that can produce memory loss, tremors, convulsions and death.

Domoic acid is produced by algae blooms that have been proliferating along the coast in recent years, accumulating in anchovies and other small fish that the sea lions feed on, said Paul Buckmaster, professor of comparative medicine at Stanford University. The harmful algae blooms is thought to be produced by micronutrients contained in agricultural runoff.

And sea lions are not the only victims, for it’s believed that other marine mammals, such as whales and dolphins, are affected by the toxin and may have seizures and drown in the open ocean, though the extent of the problem isn’t known.

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