Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Dr Paul McNabb Cawthron Institute
Dr. Paul McNabb from the Cawthron Institute brought along his pet sea slug for a show and tell talk.
Unsurprising as it may seem the sea slug he brought along not only looked slimy and horrible it was deadly.
Paul and Cawthron somehow managed against all the odds to be funded to find out what was killing the dogs on the beaches in Auckland. This story had all the hall marks of a Hollywood Hitchcock thriller. Unexplained deaths, mass hysteria, dragon boat races cancelled, everyone screaming for action but no one keen to take responsibility. A world expert on things slimy and fishy is found in little old Nelson and what do they find. Naturally the mad scientists think the slugs are very cute. They brought them back to the dark recesses of the laboratory and instantly the slugs started killing the mice in seconds. Even when diluted 10,000 times death was certain for the mice.
They isolated the toxin and within five days they knew what the toxin was. It is called Tetrodotoxin a potent marine neurotoxin. The tiniest portion will kill a man. The toxin stops you from breathing and that is what kills you.
It does not attack your brain. This is the first time ever in New Zealand and the first time ever in a sea slug in the world. There is no natural predator for the slugs. No known antidote to save you. The amount of toxin needed to kill you is so small even if you have a little bit on your hand then eat something it is likely to kill you. We better keep this a secret from the CIA and Al Qaeda.