Novel symptomatology and changing epidemiology of domoic acid toxicosis in California sea lions (Zalophus californianus): an increasing risk to marine mammal health

T Goldstein, J.A.K Mazet, T.S Zabka, G Langlois, K.M Colegrove, M Silver, S Bargu, F Van Dolah, T Leighfield, P.A Conrad, J Barakos, D.C Williams, S Dennison, M Haulena, F.M.D Gulland

Abstract

Harmful algal blooms are increasing worldwide, including those of Pseudo-nitzschia spp. producing domoic acid off the California coast. This neurotoxin was first shown to cause mortality of marine mammals in 1998. A decade of monitoring California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) health since then has indicated that changes in the symptomatology and epidemiology of domoic acid toxicosis in this species are associated with the increase in toxigenic blooms. Two separate clinical syndromes now exist: acute domoic acid toxicosis as has been previously documented, and a second novel neurological syndrome characterized by epilepsy described here associated with chronic consequences of previous sub-lethal exposure to the toxin. This study indicates that domoic acid causes chronic damage to California sea lions and that these health effects are increasing.

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Footnotes

    • Received September 6, 2007.
    • Accepted October 12, 2007.
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