Marine biotoxins impact organisms in the food web differently. For example, shellfish are rarely impacted by the toxins whereas marine mammals are highly affected.
Shellfish and marine mammals are exposed to marine biotoxins through their prey. Affected marine mammals develop neurological signs of impact, including tremors, disorientation, and seizures, and can die.
Domoic acid outbreaks have killed dozens of marine mammals, but we don't yet understand the long-term sublethal effects. Are there long-term effects of domoic acid on neurological function and reproduction? If so, what does this mean for humans who consume contaminated shellfish?
We also don't yet understand the ability of shellfish to tolerate toxins in their food. Could understanding this mechanism(s) help us better understand and prevent human health effects?
Key External Collaborators:
Dr. Frances Gulland, The Marine Mammal Center
Dr. Linda Lowenstine, University of California, Davis
Northwest Fisheries Science Center Researchers:
Dr. Kathi Lefebvre