Toxic Algae May Impact Brains of Non-Releasable Sea Lions

Stranded California sea lions considered unable to survive in the wild are often placed in public display facilities. Exposure to the biotoxin domoic acid is a common cause of stranding, and chronic effects are observed long after initial exposure. Medical records for 171 sea lions placed in US institutions between 2000 and 2016 were reviewed. There was a statistically significant increase in neurologic disease detected in neonates (24%), compared with other age classes (11%). Further research into effects of neonatal exposure to domoic acid on risk of neurologic disease later in life is warranted. 

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Simeone, C., Fauquier, D., Skidmore, J., Cook, P., Colegrove, K., Gulland, F., Dennison, S. and Rowles, T.K., 2019. Clinical signs and mortality of non-released stranded California sea lions housed in display facilities: the suspected role of prior exposure to algal toxins. The Veterinary Record, 185(10), p.304.