A microscopic killer lives in SF’s waters

San Francisco Examiner

Outside the Golden Gate Bridge, in California’s coastal waters, lives a killer much smaller than the Great White shark.

A certain microscopic algae, termed Pseudo-nitzschia diatoms, generate a neurotoxin called domoic acid. These diatoms bloom naturally during the spring and summer and can poison marine life and humans that consume contaminated fish and shellfish. While blooms typically disappear by fall, a massive one persisted much longer in 2015 and was responsible for the closure of California’s Dungeness crab season.

Now, new research offers proof that this “abnormal” will happen more in the future, thanks to climate change.

“We know that this particular species will grow faster when waters are warmer,” William Cochlan, a senior research scientist and biology professor at San Francisco State University, told me. “But none of the studies that have been published to date have examined whether the cells actually produce more deadly neurotoxin with increasing water temperatures or the other environmental factors that are changing in the ocean.”

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