Divergent gene expression profiles in Alaskan sea otters: An indicator of chronic domoic acid exposure?
An opportunistic investigation into ecosystem instability in Kachemak Bay (KBay), Alaska, has led us to investigate exposure to toxic algae in sea otters. We used gene expression to explore the physiological health of sea otters sampled in KBay in May 2019. We found altered levels of gene transcripts in comparison with reference sea otters from clinically normal, oil-exposed, and nutritionally challenged populations sampled over the past decade. KBay sea otters were markedly divergent from the other groups for five genes, which indicated the involvement of neurological, cardiac, immune, and detoxification systems. Further, analyses of urine and fecal samples detected domoic acid in the KBay sea otters. In combination, these results may point to chronic, low-level exposure to an algal toxin, such as domoic acid. With a warming climate, the frequency and severity of harmful algal blooms in marine environments is anticipated to increase, and novel molecular technologies to detect sublethal or chronic exposure to algal toxins will help provide an early warning of threats to the stability of populations and ecosystems.
|Divergent gene expression profiles in Alaskan sea otters: An indicator of chronic domoic acid exposure?
|Lizabeth Bowen, Susan Knowles, Kathi Lefebvre, Michelle St Martin, Michael Murray, Kimberly A. Kloecker, Daniel Monson, Ben Weitzman, Brenda Ballachey, Heather Coletti, Shannon C. Waters, C Cummings
|USGS Publications Warehouse
|Alaska Science Center Biology MFEB; National Wildlife Health Center; Western Ecological Research Center