Diagnosing Domoic Acid Toxicosis in the California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus) Using Behavioral Criteria: A Novel Approach
Domoic acid, California sea lion, Zalophus californianus, Diagnostics, Behavior, Pseudonitzschia, HABs
Domoic acid toxicosis in the California sea lion (Zalophus californianus) is difficult to diagnose using presence of toxin alone because the duration of domoic acid presence in blood and urine is generally less than 48 hr following exposure. Because domoic acid toxicosis is often suggested by presentation of behavioral abnormalities, we asked whether assessment of behavior might be useful for diagnostic purposes. We developed an ethogram to categorize behavioral data collected via continuous focal animal sampling. In total, 169 subjects were observed at a rehabilitation center. Sea lions with domoic acid toxicosis displayed head weaving (P < 0.0001) and muscle fasciculations (P < 0.01) significantly more often than animals in a comparison group. Dragging hind flippers and swift scanning were observed exclusively in animals from the domoic acid toxicosis group. The data show that behavioral diagnostic criteria can be effective in the diagnosis of domoic acid toxicosis in the California sea lion.
Christiana Wittmaack, Garet P. Lahvis, Edward O. Keith, and Caryn Self-Sullivan. 2015. Diagnosing Domoic Acid Toxicosis in the California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus) Using Behavioral Criteria: A Novel Approach .Zoo Biology , (4) : 314 -320. https://nsuworks.nova.edu/occ_facarticles/660.