A government research chemist has isolated what he calls “a suite of toxins” on seaweed eaten by the 112 manatees that have died in Florida’s Indian River Lagoon.
Some of the toxins may be previously unidentified by science, and flourished because of sewage-fueled algae blooms that killed sea grass.
“These animals are swimming in some highly toxic water,” said Peter Moeller, a chemist with the National Ocean Service. However, scientists say that doesn’t explain why 52 dolphins and about 300 pelicans died there, since they ate fish, not seaweed.
The manatees filled their bellies with the reddish seaweed called Gracilaria because their normal food, sea grass, had been wiped out by a series of huge algae blooms fueled by nutrient pollution in the lagoon.