HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it has discovered a highly-debilitating and potent toxin in the Hawaiian monk seal.
According to NOAA researchers, the new finding has prompted officials to investigate other marine mammals in the Hawaii.
The toxin, ciguatoxin, is produced by marine algae found commonly on coral reefs. The toxin accumulates in fish species that are consumed by humans.
NOAA's study showed that the endangered monk seals are exposed to high levels of the ciguatoxins. According to NOAA, the threat could pose management challenges for the declining species.
"Based upon this study, we believe that ciguatoxin exposure is common in the monk seal population," said Charles Littnan, study co-author and scientist with NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. "This study is an important first step. However, we still need to understand more clearly how widespread exposure is and more importantly what role it may be playing in the decline of the species."
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