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What is killing bald eagles in the U.S.?

Mar 26, 2021

Bald eagles, as well as other wildlife, have been succumbing to a mysterious neurodegenerative disease in the southern United States since the 1990s. New research by a team from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) in Germany and the University of Georgia, USA, and including researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, Germany, identifies the cause of these deaths: a toxin produced by cyanobacteria that grow on invasive aquatic plants. The problem is potentially exacerbated by herbicides used to control those plants. The results were published in “Science”.

 

Cover of the current issue of
Cover of the current issue of "Science" / (C) AAAS

Solving this mystery was only possible with the help of imaging techniques such as those used at the Max Planck Institute in Bremen. "Imaging mass spectrometry provided a decisive clue here as to where the toxin was to be found. The chemical signal was clearly attributable to the fluorescence signal of the cyanobacteria on the leaves," explain co-authors Benedikt Geier and group leader Manuel Liebeke.



Link to the research group "Metabolic Interactions" by Manuel Liebeke.

 

Original publication:

Steffen Breinlinger, Tabitha J. Phillips, Brigette N. Haram, Jan Mareš, José A. Martínez Yerena, Pavel Hrouzek, Roman Sobotka, W. Matthew Henderson, Peter Schmieder, Susan M. Williams, James D. Lauderdale, H. Dayton Wilde, Wesley Gerrin, Andreja Kust, John W. Washington, Christoph Wagner, Benedikt Geier, Manuel Liebeke, Heike Enke, Timo H. J. Niedermeyer, Susan B. Wilde (2021): A cyanobacterial neurotoxin causes vacuolar myelinopathy. Science 371, eaax9050 (2021); 26.03.2021

DOI: 10.1126/science.aax9050

Please direct your queries to

Group Leader

Department of Symbiosis

Dr. Manuel Liebeke

MPI for Marine Microbiology
Celsiusstr. 1
D-28359 Bremen
Germany

Room: 

3244

Phone: 

+49 421 2028-8220

Dr. Manuel Liebeke

Head of Press & Communications

Press Office

Dr. Fanni Aspetsberger

MPI for Marine Microbiology
Celsiusstr. 1
D-28359 Bremen
Germany

Room: 

2100

Phone: 

+49 421 2028-9470

Dr. Fanni Aspetsberger
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