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Manatees dying in record numbers in Florida red tide

Manatees are dying in droves off the Florida coast because of a red tide, according to state fishery and wildlife department officials.

The algae bloom has killed 174 manatees so far, the highest number ever reported due to red tide in a single calendar year, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Manatees are an endangered species, though their numbers have been improving.

Another 12 have been rescued thanks to the help of vigilant citizens.

Red tides occur every year in the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists first detected this bloom last September.

The red tide algae that occurs near Florida, Karenia brevis, produces a toxin that can harm animals and humans. Signs of a manatee affected by red tide include twitching and seizures, difficulty lifting its head to breathe, and poor coordination in water, the service said in a statement, asking citizens to be vigilant.

The manatee death toll could continue to rise.

MORE: What is killing the dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico?


Kate Allen is the Star's science and technology reporter. Find her on Twitter at @katecallen.



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