Global Advanced Research Journal of Environmental Science and Toxicology (GARJEST) ISSN: 2315-5140
July 2015 Vol. 4(2), pp. 008-014
Copyright © 2015 Global Advanced Research Journals


Full Length Research Paper

Neurotoxin Prevalence from Stranded Hawaiian Cetaceans

Brittney N. Kosar1, Kristi L. West2, Suzanne V. DeFelice1, Paul K. Bienfang1*

1Center for Oceans and Human Health, Pacific Research Center for Marine Biomedicine, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, MSB no. 205, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI, 96822, USA
2Hawai‘i Pacific University, 45-045 Kamehameha Highway, Kaneohe, Hawaii, 96744, USA


This study assessed the presence of naturally - produced neurotoxins in the muscle, liver, brain, and testes tissues from cetacean strandings. We examined 89 samples from 34 individuals of 13 species of cetaceans; tissues consisted of samples of 29 livers, 26 brains, 26 muscles and 8 testes. In toto, 14 samples (16%) tested positive for sodium channel aberration using the N2a bioassay that is commonly used to assess neurotoxin presence. Samples from 6 different species had at least one tissue type that tested positive; liver samples were most frequently positive for neurotoxin. Unexpected positives obtained from cetacean species feeding primarily on deep water squid (sperm whales) or filter feeding in Arctic waters (humpback whales) led to an investigation of the effect of tissue degradation on neurotoxin results. False positives were observed in tissues when extensive tissue degradation had occurred, but false positives were not observed in the fresh tissues characteristic of most of these samples. Neurotoxin activity was detected in fresh tissues from a number of different cetacean species that exhibit very diverse feeding behavior. The presence of neurotoxin activity in Hawaiian cetaceans warrants further investigation.   

Keywords: Stranding, cetacean, neurotoxins, ciguatera, marine mammals.

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