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Funds Issued to Aid Manatees Harmed by Red Tide

An up-close manatee. Image courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Photo Credit: Tracy Colson

A persistent red tide bloom off of Florida’s west coast is killing a large number of these gentle giants. Our funding of Mote’s research will help them improve rehabilitation to increase their survival rates. Credit: Tracy Colson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In order to develop better methods of treatment, a researcher from the Mote Marine Lab received harmful algal bloom Event Response Program funds to investigate the physiological effects of brevetoxin exposure on manatees. A persistent red tide bloom of algae that produces this substance is responsible for a record number of manatee deaths this spring (2013).

Mote is working with the Manatee Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release Program, who are tending to surviving animals in their care at Florida’s Lowry Park Zoo. This funding from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science will help Mote collect blood samples at rescue, during recovery, and just prior to releasing treated manatees back to the wild. Mote will analyze samples for plasma toxin levels and for indicators of immune function such as inflammation and oxidative stress.

Earlier research indicates that sub-lethal exposure to brevetoxin compromises manatees’ immune systems, making them predisposed to disease. This study will provide essential information to help devise improved treatment methods and boost their chances of survival after they’re returned to their natural habitat.

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