December 29, 2011
Toxin Linked To Incident That Inspired Famous Hitchcock Movie
Scientists have determined what triggered a crazed bird flock that helped inspire Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 hit movie "The Birds".
Dan Vergano of USA TODAY reports that seabirds rammed themselves into homes across California's Monterey Bay in the summer of 1961, which sparked Hitchcock's interest and eventually helped birth a classic movie.
The scientists wrote in the journal Nature Geoscience that the birds of the 1961 incident were poisoned by toxin-making algae.
They found that 79 percent of the turtles and seabirds gathered in 1961 Monterey Bay ship surveys had this toxin, which damaged nerves and caused confusion, seizures and death.
A similar algae bloom contaminated mussels that caused the death of four people in Canada's Prince Edward Island in 1987.
The scientists say that the 1961 seabirds ate anchovies and squid loaded with the brain-damaging acid.
"All the symptoms were extremely similar to later bird poisoning events in the same area," ocean environmentalist Sibel Bargu of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge said in a statement.
They said that the toxin was the likely culprit in the 1961 incident and that septic tank leaks may had fed the toxic algae, rather than farm fertilizers.
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