Brain-Altering Poison Increases Seal Attacks on Humans

While seals aren’t known as being the most vicious animals in the ocean, they can be pretty feisty. A number of recent seal attacks on humans in South Africa have been blamed on brain damage caused by diseased fish.

Boosted by climate change and pollution, a “red tide” of toxic algae has made its way into South Africa’s seal population through the fish they consume. This disease has caused a large number of seals to die off but it has also made the remaining population become unusually aggressive.

It’s believed by marine wildlife experts that the seals have been poisoned with a naturally occurring neurotoxin called domoic acid. The chemical is formed in sea algae, which is later accumulated in prey that goes on to be eaten by the seals.

Brett Glasby, from Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium, said: “The animals that survive domoic acid poisoning suffer neurological damage and we suspect that is what has led to us seeing an increase in the number of attacks around Cape Town.”

Loulou Taylor was swimming at Clifton beach near Cape Town when she was bitten by a seal. The South African-born actress said she was “bitten six times, requiring an ER visit and strong antibiotics.” She also pointed out that although seals may look like friendly creatures “they have big teeth.”

Looking at the more light-hearted side of things, Taylor uploaded a new version of the classic Jaws poster on Instagram but with the great white shark replaced by a seal.