Tetrodotoxin Researchers Delving into Sea Slug Poison


A group of researchers are going to meet sometime this week, and attempt to delve into the mysterious poison which has been discovered in sea slugs, which have made an appearance on Auckland’s shores this past winter.

This meeting, which was started by the Cawthron Institute, comes as a result of the spreading of the toxic sea slug to an east Auckland beach for the first time.

The sea slugs, known in scientific circles as Pleurobranchaea maculata and generally only 2 cm long, were discovered this past year to contain TTX, tetrodotoxin, a very strong neurotoxin.

This poison is thought to be behind the demise of five dogs on the beaches of North Shore.

There have been no fatalities this past season, however dogs that paid a visit to Torpedo Bay, Narrow Neck, and Milford have become ill.

Gillian Wratt, chief of the Cawthron Institute, has commented that the ability of the sea slug to handle such a potent poison has been a real head scratcher for scientists in Japan for the past 40 some odd years, and it was an excellent time for researchers in New Zealand to study the creature in greater depth.

“The ocean has thrown up this amazingly toxic slug which somehow, somewhere has developed a mechanism to cope with one of the deadliest toxins in the world. And it is right here on our doorstep.”

It was found the slugs got the toxin from their diet, but it isn’t clear yet as to how.. Well, I for one hope that they find a way to deal with the slugs, and not just what makes them tick, for the benefit of the beach goers.