Toxin Spread That Delayed Crab Season Shines Light on Mysterious Algae


Blarney McCresty, an adult male California sea lion, was treated for domoic acid toxicity during his rehabilitation at the Marine Mammal Center. Photo courtesy of the Marine Mammal Center

By Graelyn Brashear, Bay Nature

The delay in opening California’s crab fisheries because of a toxin called domoic acid has made headlines lately. But for marine biologists, alarm over the summertime growth of Pseudo-nitzschia, the single-celled algae producing the toxin, started long ago.

Seasonal explosions of ocean algae have been observed throughout human history. Most of the time they go unnoticed, said William Cochlan, a marine ecologist at San Francisco State’s Romberg Tiburon Center. But some algae can produce toxic byproducts, and if those species manage to outcompete others, they may form massive harmful blooms that can poison the food chain.

Read the complete story at Bay Nature. 

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