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Rapid behavioural diagnosis of domoic acid toxicosis in California sea lions


Rapid behavioural diagnosis of domoic acid toxicosis in California sea lions



Biology Letters 7(4): 536-538



ISSN/ISBN: 1744-9561

PMID: 21389016

DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.0127

Domoic acid is a neurotoxic metabolite of widely occurring algal blooms that has caused multiple marine animal stranding events. Exposure to high doses of domoic acid, a glutamate agonist, may lead to persistent medial temporal seizures and damage to the hippocampus. California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) are among the most visible and frequent mammalian victims of domoic acid poisoning, but rapid, reliable diagnosis in a clinical setting has proved difficult owing to the fast clearance of the toxin from the blood stream. Here, we show that the behavioural orienting responses of stranded sea lions diagnosed with domoic acid toxicosis habituate more slowly to a series of non-aversive auditory stimuli than do those of sea lions with no apparent neurological deficits. A signal detection analysis based on these habituation measures was able to correctly identify 50 per cent of subjects with domoic acid toxicosis while correctly rejecting approximately 93 per cent of controls, suggesting potential diagnostic merit.

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Accession: 037460209

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