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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 526:241-251 (2015)  -  DOI:

Brevetoxin-associated mass mortality event of bottlenose dolphins and manatees along the east coast of Florida, USA

Spencer E. Fire1,2,4,*, Leanne J. Flewelling1, Megan Stolen3, Wendy Noke Durden3, Martine de Wit1, Ann C. Spellman1, Zhihong Wang2

1Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701, USA
2NOAA Marine Biotoxins Program, Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, 219 Fort Johnson Road, Charleston, South Carolina 29412, USA
3Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, 3830 South Highway A1A #4-181, Melbourne Beach, Florida 32951, USA
4Present address: Florida Institute of Technology, Department of Biological Sciences, 150 West University Boulevard, Melbourne, Florida 32901, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: A mass mortality of bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus and Florida manatees Trichechus manatus latirostris co-occurred with a severe bloom of the toxic algal species Karenia brevis along the eastern coast of Florida, USA, between October 2007 and January 2008. Brevetoxin (PbTx), a potent neurotoxin produced by this marine alga, was detected in 69 and 92% of the tested carcasses of manatees and dolphins, respectively, at concentrations similar to those reported for earlier mortality events along the west coast of Florida. Brevetoxin was also detected in fetal and neonate dolphins, providing evidence of maternal transfer of the toxin in wild populations. This study is the first to document a brevetoxin-associated marine mammal mortality event along the Atlantic coast of Florida. It also demonstrates that, despite the rarity of K. brevis blooms in this region, significant negative impacts to marine mammals inhabiting this region can occur.

KEY WORDS: Brevetoxin · Harmful algal bloom · Dolphin · Manatee · Mortality ∙ HAB · Indian River Lagoon

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Cite this article as: Fire SE, Flewelling LJ, Stolen M, Noke Durden W, de Wit M, Spellman AC, Wang Z (2015) Brevetoxin-associated mass mortality event of bottlenose dolphins and manatees along the east coast of Florida, USA. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 526:241-251.

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