Over a dozen dolphins stranded on the beaches of Florida and Massachusetts were found with brains full of amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.
The scientists who made the discovery think this could be a warning to us All: In addition to Alzheimer's-like plaques, the team also found the environmental toxin BMAA.
This blue-green algae-derived neurotoxin is easily trapped in the food web of the ocean, and chronic dietary exposures have long been thought to be a cause of neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
The presence of amyloid plaques from BMAA and in 13 stranded dolphins adds even more weight to this hypothesis.
says neurologist Deborah Mash from the University of Miami.
"As the abundance and duration of cyanobacterial blooms in coastal waters increase, dolphins may be able to warn early of toxic exposures that could affect human health."
You could also be good animal model of how BMAA can trigger Alzheimer's disease. In 201
Meanwhile, dolphins living in Florida's coastal waters are also frequently exposed to recurring harmful algal blooms (HABs). This may just be a coincidence, but experiments have shown that chronic BMAA exposure can trigger neurodegenerative changes in both humans and non-human primates.
"Acute and chronic exposure to such toxins can be harmful to both humans and animals, leading to respiratory disease, severe dermatitis, mucosal damage, cancer, organ failure, and death," the authors write.
When the world warms up at a rapid rate, these HABs are becoming more prevalent, and the authors fear that dolphins will accumulate even more BMAA as a result, "both by exposure to HABs and by ingestion of cyanotoxin previously exposed Prey".
Ace These creatures may be our first indication of poor environmental conditions, and while it is still unclear whether this flower leads directly to Alzheimer's in dolphins or humans, the researchers say it's a risk we're not taking want.
"The $ 64,000 question is whether these marine mammals experienced cognitive deficits and disorientation that led to their stranding," says co-author Paul Alan Cox, an anthropobotanist at the Brain Chemistry Labs in Jackson Hole.
Until further research clarifies this question, people should take simple steps to avoid exposure to cyanobacteria.
This study was published in PLOS ONE .