Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Endangered Northern Right Whales Exposed to Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning

10.01.2003


With fewer than 300 northern right whales remaining, the seriously endangered species may face yet another obstacle to recovery. The right whale is regularly exposed to the neurotoxins responsible for paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) through feeding on contaminated zooplankton. These toxins could affect respiratory capabilities, feeding behavior, and ultimately the reproduction condition of the whale population.



In the current issue of the journal Harmful Algae, a team of scientists, led by University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) biologist Edward Durbin, describes how north Atlantic right whales, feeding in Grand Manan Basin in the lower Bay of Fundy in late summer, are exposed to PSP toxins from feeding directly on the contaminated copepod Calanus finmarchicus.

Other members of the scientific team include Gregory Teegarden, St. Joseph’s College, Standish, ME; Robert Campbell, GSO; Allan Cembella, Institute for Marine Biosciences, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; and Mark F. Baumgartner and Bruce R. Mate, College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University.


The scientists estimated that the toxin ingestion rates of right whales in Grand Manan Basin are substantial and are similar to the estimated minimum lethal oral dose for humans.

"While there is no direct evidence of PSP toxin-related deaths of right whales," said Durbin, "we suggest that during their prolonged summer feeding period in this region, they would be experiencing chronic exposure to PSP toxins."

The toxins are potent sodium-channel blockers in muscles and membranes and affect nerve function. Initial symptoms of PSP toxicity include parethesia and numbness and a weakening of muscles. In high doses, the PSP toxicity syndrome in mammals is characterized by respiratory difficulties, which may cause death in the absence of ventilatory support.

"Although PSP toxins do not tend to accumulate in most mammalian tissues, chronic effects of repeated PSP toxin exposure will be seen in measures of diving capabilities, including dive times, swimming speeds while at depth, and frequency of dives," added Durbin. "Impaired diving capabilities in right whales would lead to reduced ingestion rates and may be a possible explanation for their poorer condition and reduced calving rates despite the high concentrations of copepods in Grand Manan Basin."

Other effects of toxin ingestion on "whale fitness" may be greater susceptibility to disease, reproductive failure, disruption of migration and mechanical damage, e.g., by collisions with ships or fouling in nets and other fishing gear. For example, recovery from dives during periods of PSP exposure would likely be longer than normal, and increased time at the surface would increase a whale’s chances of being hit by a ship.

"The significance of ingested PSP toxins on the survival of right whales should not be underestimated," said Durbin. "Few studies have been done on the effects of these toxins on higher mammals, and none on the effects in whales. Our findings are the first to suggest that physiological impairment due to exposure to high dosages of PSP toxins through the food chain may compromise the health of a population."

This research project was supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Office of Naval Research, the NASA Space Grant and Earth System Science Programs, Oregon State Marine Mammal Endowment, and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Contast: Lisa Cugini, (401) 874-6642
lcugini@gso.uri.edu

Lisa Cugini | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uri.edu/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Gran Chaco: Biodiversity at High Risk
17.01.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

nachricht Dead trees are alive with fungi
10.01.2018 | Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Gran Chaco: Biodiversity at High Risk

17.01.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Only an atom thick: Physicists succeed in measuring mechanical properties of 2D monolayer materials

17.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Fraunhofer HHI receives AIS Technology Innovation Award 2018 for 3D Human Body Reconstruction

17.01.2018 | Awards Funding

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>