Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 422
Title: From sanddabs to blue whales:  the pervasiveness of domoic acid
Author: K. A. Lefebvre, S. Bargu, T. Kieckhefer, M. W. Silver
Publication Year: 2002
Journal: Toxicon
Volume: 40
Issue: 7
Pages: 971-977

Domoic acid (DA) is a potent food web transferred algal toxin that has caused dramatic mortality events involving sea birds and sea lions.  Although no confirmed DA toxicity events have been reported in whales, here we present data demonstrating that humpback and blue whales are exposed to the toxin and consume DA contaminated prey.  Whale fecal samples were found to contain DA at levels ranging from 10 to 207 μg DA g−1 feces via HPLC–UV methods.  SEM analysis of whale feces containing DA, collected from krill-feeding whales, revealed the presence of diatom frustules identified as Pseudo-nitzschia australis, a known DA producer.  Humpback whales were observed feeding on anchovies and sardines that contained DA at levels ranging from 75 to 444 μg DA g−1 viscera.  DA contamination of whale feces and fish occurred only during blooms of toxic Pseudo-nitzschia.  Additionally, several novel fish species collected during a toxic diatom bloom were tested for DA.  Fish as diverse as benthic sanddabs and pelagic albacore were found to contain the neurotoxin, suggesting that DA permeates benthic as well as pelagic communities.

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Notes: Not internally reviewed.