Endangered Smalltooth Sawfish Are “Spinning And Whirling” Themselves To Death In The Florida Keys, And Scientists Are Unable To Explain This Strange Phenomenon

Kevin Ruck - - illustrative purposes only

Humans aren’t the only species capable of some bizarre behavior. Our animal friends can also execute actions that are very surprising as well as disturbing.

For instance, in the waters off the Florida Keys, endangered smalltooth sawfish are “spinning and whirling” themselves to death. The strange behavior causes them to become stranded on beaches, where they end up dying.

Currently, scientists are unable to explain why the behavior is occurring. The abnormal event began in October 2023, when locals reported that sawfish were swimming in uneven circles and erratic patterns. Since then, 32 smalltooth sawfish (Pristis pectinata) have died.

However, experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries believe that this number may not accurately reflect the amount of deaths that have occurred. The agency suspects that total mortalities are greater since sawfish don’t usually float after dying.

Water samples were taken to assess the quality of the water and check for any chemicals. No irregularities were detected.

However, the tests determined that there were elevated concentrations of dinoflagellates from the genus Gambierdiscus, which is a type of toxin that causes the foodborne illness ciguatera.

Dinoflagellates are extremely tiny, single-celled algae. Sometimes, they can appear in large concentrations in the water, a phenomenon known as algal blooms.

Some algal blooms are harmless, but others, such as ones from the Gambierdiscus species, produce toxins that can be dangerous to humans and animals living in the area.

According to Michael Crosby, the president and CEO of the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, the spinning behavior might be “a neurological response to some kind of an agent.”

Kevin Ruck – – illustrative purposes only

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