CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A Coastal Bend scientist is taking a closer look at the toxic blue-green algae that's suspected of killing several dogs in Austin.
Director of Center for Coastal Studies, Dr. Paul Zimba, was sent samples of the algae from Lady Bird Lake and was able to identify the toxin within two days.
"The amount of material on the surface here is enough to kill a dog," Zimba said.
Zimba is holding an algae sample taken from the upper Laguna Madre, which is similar to the one taken from Lady Bird Lake.
"Here is an example of one of the samples that were collected," Zimba said.
Zimba studies algae and their toxins in a lab at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
"Anatoxin is one the neurological toxins that will affect not only dogs but humans at high concentrations," Zimba said.
Ingesting blue-green algae can be fatal, but getting it on your skin will cause some irritation.
"Unless you have a gashing wound in which the toxin is getting in and being absorbed. Um you know that's not going to kill you," Zimba said.
The toxin causes the liquid to build up in the lungs to where it's nearly impossible to breathe, or the heart stops beating.
"When people think of (Algae) blooms, they usually think of platonic forms turning the water green," Zimba said.
According to Zimba, there are other types of blooms, like on the surface of the soil.
"You can look at that water and say, there are not many algae here and yet the toxicity of the algae is very high," Zimba said. "Algae can go with not producing a toxin, and suddenly the conditions are right, and they spike producing the toxin."
Several factors could have caused the toxins to show up in Lady Bird Lake.
"The lowered water flow that's coming through the dams up in Austin and also the higher heat, the higher temperatures and potentially nutrient limitations," Zimba said.
According to Zimba, if you spot masses of algae don't let your dog ingest it, prevent it from licking it's fur then give it a bath.
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