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New Potential Pathways Found for Biotoxin Transfer within Marine Food Webs, May Help to Protect Health of Wildlife and Humans

National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research-funded researchers and NCCOS scientists have found domoic acid (DA), a potent algal biotoxin, in eight species of bottom dwelling animals off the California coast.  These animals are consumed by marine birds, sea lions, and/or endangered sea otters, all of which can become ill or die when exposed to DA-contaminated prey.  In six of the eight species of bottom dwelling animals, DA exceeded levels thought to be safe for higher-level consumers.

Blooms of the DA-producing diatom, Pseudo-nitzschia australis, occur in surface waters and settle to the bottom, and are consumed by animals such as sand crabs, sand dab fish, ghost shrimp and sand dollars, each with very different feeding methods.  These findings demonstrate new potential routes by which algal biotoxins are transferred within food webs in our oceans, and will help coastal managers mitigate the impact DA has on larger marine animals and humans.

For more information, contact Quay Dortch at (301) 713-3338, or Quay.Dortch@noaa.gov or Greg Doucette at (843) 762-8528 or Greg.Doucette@noaa.gov.

Kvitek, R.G., Goldberg, J.D., Smith, G.J., Doucette, G.J., Silver, M.W.  2008.  Domoic acid contamination within eight representative species from the benthic food web of Monterey Bay, California, USA.  Marine Ecology Progress Series 367: 35-47.

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Shorter web link for sharing: http://coastalscience.noaa.gov/news/?p=1666

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