Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 1016
Title: Clinical signs and histopathology associated with domoic acid poisoning in northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) and comparison of toxin detection methods
Author: K. A. Lefebvre, A. Robertson, Elizabeth Rose Frame, K. M. Colegrove, Shelly L. Nance, Keri A. Baugh, H. Wiedenhoft, F. M. D. Gulland
Publication Year: 2010
Journal: Harmful Algae
Volume: 9
Issue: 4
Pages: 374-383
Keywords: Domoic acid, northern fur seals, algal toxin, Callorhinus, biotoxin trophic transfer, biotoxin detection methods

Between July 2005 and March 2009, 33 northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) were collected after stranding along the central California coast between Sonoma and San Luis Obispo Counties.  Of these, 26 were collected live and could be observed for signs of neuroexcitotoxicity.  Approximately half exhibited the classic clinical signs of domoic acid (DA) toxicosis including muscle twitches and ataxia, to seizures and coma, and had lesions in the central nervous system and heart.  Several biological fluids were collected for DA analysis including aqueous humor, serum, stomach contents, feces, urine, abdominal fluid, amniotic fluid and milk.  Four analytical methods were employed including receptor binding assay (RBA), enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC-UV) and ultra-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS).  The DA concentrations determined by each method were positively correlated.  Domoic acid was detected in 83% of fecal samples collected from northern fur seals in the present study and in one animal was calculated to contain up to 18.6 μg DA/g.  Interestingly, DA was detected and confirmed in the aqueous humor of the only animal this sample-type was collected from, suggesting that this may prove to be a useful diagnostic body fluid for algal toxin detection in marine mammal mortality events.  These data document for the first time that northern fur seals are impacted by DA-producing harmful algal blooms along the California coast.

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