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Mass stranding of marine birds caused by a surfactant-producing red tide.

  • Author(s): Jessup, David A
  • Miller, Melissa A
  • Ryan, John P
  • Nevins, Hannah M
  • Kerkering, Heather A
  • Mekebri, Abdou
  • Crane, David B
  • Johnson, Tyler A
  • Kudela, Raphael M
  • et al.
Abstract

In November-December 2007 a widespread seabird mortality event occurred in Monterey Bay, California, USA, coincident with a massive red tide caused by the dinoflagellate Akashiwo sanguinea. Affected birds had a slimy yellow-green material on their feathers, which were saturated with water, and they were severely hypothermic. We determined that foam containing surfactant-like proteins, derived from organic matter of the red tide, coated their feathers and neutralized natural water repellency and insulation. No evidence of exposure to petroleum or other oils or biotoxins were found. This is the first documented case of its kind, but previous similar events may have gone undetected. The frequency and amplitude of red tides have increased in Monterey Bay since 2004, suggesting that impacts on wintering marine birds may continue or increase.

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