Mortality of sea lions along the central California coast linked to a toxic diatom bloom

Christopher A. Scholin, Frances Gulland, Gregory J. Doucette, Scott Benson, Mark Busman, Francisco P. Chavez, Joe Cordaro, Robert DeLong, Andrew De Vogelaere, James Harvey, Martin Haulena, Kathi Lefebvre, Tom Lipscomb, Susan Loscutoff, Linda J Lowenstine, Roman Marin, Peter E. Miller, William A. McLellan, Peter D R Moeller, Christine L. PowellTeri Rowles, Paul Silvagni, Mary Silver, Terry Spraker, Vera Trainer, Frances M. Van Dolah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

581 Scopus citations


Over 400 California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) died and many others displayed signs of neurological dysfunction along the central California coast during May and June 1998. A bloom of Pseudo-nitzschia australis (diatom) was observed in the Monterey Bay region during the same period. This bloom was associated with production of domoic acid (DA), a neurotoxin that was also detected in planktivorous fish, including the northern anchovy (Engraulis mordax), and in sea lion body fluids. These and other concurrent observations demonstrate the trophic transfer of DA resulting in marine mammal mortality. In contrast to fish, blue mussels (Mytilus edulus) collected during the DA outbreak contained no DA or only trace amounts. Such findings reveal that monitoring of mussel toxicity alone does not necessarily provide adequate warning of DA entering the food web at levels sufficient to harmful marine wildlife and perhaps humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)80-84
Number of pages5
Issue number6765
StatePublished - Jan 6 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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