Algal toxin impairs sea lion memory and hippocampal connectivity, with implications for strandings

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Science  14 Dec 2015:
DOI: 10.1126/science.aac5675

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Domoic acid (DA) is a naturally occurring neurotoxin known to harm marine animals. DA-producing algal blooms are increasing in size and frequency. Although chronic exposure is known to produce brain lesions, the influence of DA toxicosis on behavior in wild animals is unknown. We showed, in a large sample of wild sea lions, that spatial memory deficits are predicted by the extent of right dorsal hippocampal lesions related to natural exposure to DA and that exposure also disrupts hippocampal-thalamic brain networks. Because sea lions are dynamic foragers that rely on flexible navigation, impaired spatial memory may affect survival in the wild.

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