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Domoic Acid: Toxin detected in sea life in Indian River Lagoon

Posted at 1:53 PM, Jun 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-22 14:20:21-04

It’s something very rare to see.

Cell phone video captured a sea lion biting a girl in California.

Now, scientists say the sea lion had been exposed to a toxin known to change animal behavior or make them disoriented.

That toxin has also been found in low concentrations in the Indian River Lagoon.

FAU Harbor Branch Researcher Adam Schaeffer says the toxin, Domoic Acid, comes from an algae called Pseudo-Nitzschia.

Much like the blue green algae that is more commonly seen in the Indian River Lagoon which can produce the toxin Microcystin, Pseudo Nitzschia also thrives in warm, nutrient rich water.

Now, researchers are looking further into its impacts in our area. Schaeffer does not know yet how long the toxin might have been in the area.

Researchers found small amounts of the toxin in sea life in the lagoon.

“We’ve actually seen evidence of Domoic Acid in some of the shark and race animals that we’ve taken as well,” Schaeffer said.

The toxin in high concentrations causes neurological issues like seizures and memory loss. Animals typically get sick from injecting food contaminated with the toxin, such as shell fish.

“We’re working to do further monitoring and surveillance because this toxin has public health implications.”

Thanks to increased funding, FAU Harbor Branch hopes to do more research on this toxin and others that might be in the lagoon, but still not being tracked.

“The importance of our research is to keep looking at all the toxins being produced. We know there’s Microcystin. But, there’s also compounds we haven’t even looked for yet.”

No animal deaths or unusual activity have been traced back to the toxin in the Indian River Lagoon.