Subject: bacterias, biotoxins, and whales

Leah Gerber (leah@fish.washington.edu)
Tue, 24 Mar 1998 10:18:56 -0800

At 10:39 AM 3/16/98 -0600, you wrote:
>     
>  
> Leah: I am trying to find information on a topic that  I hope is not
>impossible! For my Aquatic Science class I need to know  information
>concerning the bacteria in whales or in the barnacles attached. If  you
>have any information relating in any way I would love to hear it.  Please
>help if you can! Thanks...   

Dear John,

Not much is known about this topic, which is probably why you have had
trouble finding information!

Natural biotoxins originating from single celled algae may kill fish and
crustaceans; such "red tide" events result from phytoplankton blooms in
response to increased amounts of nutrients.  The large quantity of animal
remains at the surface of the water depletes oxygen and may asphyxiate
other animals, including the prey of whales.  
	Reduced availability of prey as a result of red tide may in turn disturb
whales.  There is some evidence for a massive mortality event of humpback
whales being linked to a red tide event.  In 1987, several humpback whales
in Cape Cod Bay appear to have died as a result of an algal toxin produced
by the dinoflagellate Alexandrium, which had been accumulated in mackerel
that the animals had eaten.  There is also speculation that the toxin
Gymnodinium breve caused massive mortality events of bottlenose dolphins
along the Florida coast and in the Gulf of Mexico.  It remains unclear
whether red tide is a considerable source of disturbance for whales.

Hope this helps!

Leah