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ALERT: Rise of Shellfish Toxic from Global Warming Could Lead to Memory Loss, Death

Jan 09, 2017 11:39 PM EST

Global warming has been affecting different members of the environment, including shellfish. A new study has revealed that the warming waters could trigger the rise of toxins in shellfish, which is a health hazard for humans.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reveals a strong correlation between the El Nino and Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the level of domoic acid in shellfish.

The researchers from Oregon State University, the University of Oregon, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) says that as the Earth's water continue to warm, it expected that the domoic acid will also increase.

The team came up with this results by analyzing two decades' worth of time-series data. They also developed a model that will predict when the domoic acid level in the Pacific Northwest becomes dangerous. The said model is based on the Ocean Nino Index and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.

"In the natural world there are always variations, and it's been difficult to connect a specific event to larger forces that operate over periods of years and decades. To do so, long observational time-series are crucial. With NOAA's commitment to sponsored coastal ocean research and monitoring, along with state support for monitoring shellfish toxins, we've finally been able to tease out short-term variability from natural climate forcing," said Angelicque White, research team leader in the OSU College of Earth, Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, via Phys Org.

But how dangerous is this shellfish toxic? Live Science notes that domoic acid is a neurotoxin produced by marine algae and accumulates in algae-eating animals such as shellfish. People who consume shellfish with high levels of domoic acid could be at risk of develop domoic acid poisoning (DAP). Also called amnesic shellfish poisoning, DAP is a neurological disorder that could lead to face numbing, seizures, memory loss and sometimes death.

"The biggest takeaway is that the ocean temperatures are changing, and that has the potential for more frequent and more extreme harmful algal blooms that have significant implication[s] [for] not only fisheries but also natural resources and human health," said Matthew Hunter, co-author of the study.

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