A "Red Tide" event that occurred off the coast of El Salvador late last year directly caused the deaths of some 200 sea turtles, according to test results released today by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and other organizations.
Responding to requests from the Salvadoran government and the US Agency for International Development (USAID)for assistance, WCS veterinary pathologist Dr. Julie White journeyed to the southern coast of El Salvador in January to help determine why these ocean-going reptiles--mostly olive ridley turtles and a few green and hawksbill turtles--were dying in such high numbers. Tissues collected from dead turtles, and analyzed by both U.S. biologists and researchers from the Mexican Autonomous University, revealed the culprit: saxitoxin, which is produced by the species of algae and sea plankton that cause the phenomenon known as "Red Tide."
"The rapid response and subsequent diagnosis in this outbreak demonstrates the power of collaboration among governments and non-governmental organizations," said White, who collected tissue samples in January. "We are still testing samples from other turtles that died during this period, but we can say with some certainty that Red Tides first reported in November resulted in widespread sea turtle mortality."
Stephen Sautner | EurekAlert!
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